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IES Grant

Title: An Experimental Evaluation of Corequisite Developmental Education in Texas
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Miller, Trey Awardee: American Institutes for Research (AIR)
Program: Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (09/22/2017 – 08/31/2020) Award Amount: $4,500,000
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305H170085

Previous Award Number: R305H150094
Previous Awardee: RAND Corporation

Co-Principal Investigator: Daugherty, Lindsay

Related Network Teams: In FY17, this project joined as a research team in the Scalable Strategies to Support College Completion, which aimed to support community colleges develop and evaluate interventions designed to increase degree attainment: College Completion Network Lead (R305N170003), Nudges to the Finish Line: Experimental Interventions to Prevent Late College Departure (R305N160026), The Men of Color College Achievement (MoCCA) Project (R0305N160025), Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities (R305N170020), A Scalable Growth Mindset Intervention to Raise Achievement and Persistence in Community College (R305A150253)

Partner: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Purpose: The partnership assessed whether placing incoming college students testing near college-ready in writing into a corequisite model that paired a college-level English Composition I course with a concurrent developmental education support produced higher rates of college success than requiring these students to complete a developmental (remedial) Integrated Reading and Writing course prior to enrolling in credit-bearing courses. The evaluation responded to prior research evidence showing that many students required to complete developmental course sequences performed no better than similar students who did not take developmental courses. By implementing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) study design, the partnership determined whether the corequisite model is causally related to higher rates of course and degree completion for students at the margin of college readiness.

Project Activities: AIR, RAND, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) collaborated with six community colleges across Texas as they implemented the RCT in these colleges. During the first 6 months of the project, the researchers visited administrators and instructors in each institution to assess their practices for placing students into developmental education, as well as the set of course sequences and supports available to students in need of developmental education. During the second and third years of the project (2016-18), the partnership carried out the RCT. The researchers followed students for 3 years from randomization to assess short- and long-term outcomes associated with being placed in a corequisite model. In addition to the RCT, the researchers collected and analyzed statewide data on implementation and experiences with corequisites. As evidence from the study emerged, the partnership advised postsecondary institutions and state policymakers regarding the benefits and costs of corequisite models and the conditions under which they are most helpful for students. Drawing on evidence from the study, the partnership conducted hands-on training sessions with practitioners to inform the implementation and scaling efforts of colleges across the state as they responded to Texas HB 2223, which mandated that colleges scale corequisite models for most incoming college students testing below college level on the state's TSIA placement exam. 

Key Outcomes: The main findings of this project as reported in Miller et al. (2022) are as follows:

  • Assignment to a corequisite English model increased the probability of passing a college level English class within 1 and 2 academic years by 24.2 and 18.4 percentage points, respectively, relative to being assigned to a prerequisite Integrated Reading and Writing developmental education course.
  • Students assigned to a corequisite English model were 6.4 percentage points more likely to pass English Composition II within 2 academic years, relative to being assigned to a prerequisite Integrated Reading and Writing developmental education course.
  • Students assigned to a corequisite English model completed 2.3 additional college credits during their first academic year, relative to students in a prerequisite Integrated Reading and Writing developmental education course.
  • Students assigned to a corequisite English model were no more likely to persist in college or complete a degree, relative to students assigned to a traditional prerequisite developmental English course.
  • The impact of assignment to a corequisite English model was positive and statistically significant for three priority student subgroups:  first generation college students, Hispanic students, and students whose first language was non-English.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project took place at six community colleges located across Texas.

Sample: Study participants included 1,482 incoming college students across three cohorts:  fall 2016, spring 2017, and fall 2018. All students in the sample were first-time undergraduate students who scored within a pre-specified range of Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) college-readiness scores that ranged from slightly to somewhat below college-ready. Overall, the study sample was 63 percent Hispanic, 19 percent African American, and 39 percent first generation.

Intervention: A 2012 change to Texas state law required postsecondary institutions to develop "accelerated pathways" through developmental education. This project evaluated a specific educational practice known as "corequisites" in which students who score close to (but below) the TSIA college-readiness threshold were placed directly into college-level English courses with concurrent developmental education support. The corequisite developmental education supports for such students varied across institutions, and included tutoring, concurrent developmental education courses requiring 1 to 3 credit hours of participation per semester, and extended class time for the college-level course. In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed HB 2223, which required institutions in Texas to significantly scale corequisites so that 75 percent of students testing at the developmental education level of the TSIA were enrolled in a corequisite model by fall 2020.

Research Design and Methods: The partnership employed a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess whether a corequisite model can significantly increase the probability of near-college-ready students completing a college-level English course, succeeding in subsequent credit-bearing courses, and completing a degree. During the orientation process when students were enrolling for courses, the researchers identified students eligible for the corequisite intervention based on performance on the TSIA and information provided to them by the participating colleges. They randomly divided the eligible group of students into the treatment and control conditions. Administrators routed treatment group students to a college-level English course along with their college's corequisite support course. Control group students were assigned to the highest level Integrated Reading and Writing developmental education course. Researchers followed treatment and control group students for 3 years after random assignment. They compared short- and long-term outcomes between the treatment and control groups to draw inferences about the impact of the corequisite intervention.

Control Condition: The project team assigned control group members to the business-as-usual condition for students within the range of TSIA scores represented in the sample, which was the highest level Integrated Reading and Writing developmental education course.

Key Measures: Students' scores on the TSIA writing component served as the key placement measure. The group eligible for random assignment was identified by the institutions based on this score which was also used as a covariate in the statistical analyses. Researchers drew on THECB administrative data to measure student participation in different course options: (a) enrollment in a college-level course, (b) corequisite enrollment combining a college-level course with concurrent support (e.g., a non-course-based option or a developmental course rated at 1 to 3 credit hours per semester), and (c) enrollment in the highest level of developmental education. Key intermediate outcomes included completion of a first college-level course, college-level credits completed in the first semester, and enrollment in a semester following random assignment. Long-term outcomes included persistence for additional semesters, total college credits accumulated, and degree completion or transfer. Other covariates used in the statistical analyses included demographic characteristics such as gender, age, and ethnicity.

Data Analytic Strategy: To measure the treatment impact, researchers estimated a linear regression model including the treatment indicator and a vector of baseline covariates that were also used to establish baseline equivalency. Researchers included the baseline covariates to improve the precision of the treatment effect estimates.

Cost Analysis: The researchers collected detailed cost data and conducted a cost analysis and cost effectiveness analysis. The results indicated that corequisites were less expensive than pre-requisite pathways in two colleges, slightly more expensive in two other colleges, and much more expensive in one college.  The main drivers of differential costs across pathways and colleges were the number of credit and contact hours in each pathway, class sizes, and the type of faculty used to teach courses (adjunct or full-time).

Related IES Projects: Designing a RCT Experiment to Test the Impact of Innovative Interventions and Policies for Postsecondary Developmental Education: A RAND—TX Higher Education Coordinating Board Research Partnership (R305H130026), Continuous Improvement Research to Support the Implementation of a Statewide Reform to Postsecondary Developmental Education—A RAND-THECB Research Partnership (R305H150069)

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here and here.

WWC Review:

Miller, T., Daugherty, L., Martorell, P., and Gerber, R. (2022). Assessing the Effect of Corequisite English Instruction Using a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Vol. 15, No. 1, 78-102. [WWC Review]

Additional Online Resources and Information:

Select Publications:

Miller, T., Daugherty, L., Martorell, P., and Gerber, R. (2022). Assessing the effect of corequisite English instruction using a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Vol. 15, No. 1, 78-102.