Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Evaluation of Florida's Developmental Education Redesign
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Hu, Shouping Awardee: Florida State University
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2021) Award Amount: $3,283,265
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A160166

Purpose: The research team for this project will take a broad, mixed-methods approach to assessing the effects of a new law passed by the Florida legislature in 2013. The law (Senate Bill 1720) makes developmental education optional for most Florida college students and mandates a set of changes to how Florida colleges deliver developmental courses and provide supports to students. Features of the law, including innovative methods for delivering developmental courses and the emphasis on providing students with more access to advising and academic support, reflect ideas developed by postsecondary researchers during the last decade. Findings from the research will be of interest to legislators and policymakers in other states that are either considering or currently in the process of substantial reforms to their developmental education systems.

Project Activities: During the first three years of the project, researchers will collect and code quantitative administrative records for over 500,000 students who entered the Florida College System between fall 2009 and fall 2016. Also during this period, qualitative researchers will carry out site visits at nine Florida colleges in each year, and conduct interviews and focus groups with faculty, support staff, and students. During the final two years of the project, researchers will quantitatively analyze how the policy change is affecting students' participation in developmental education, and how it is affecting their progression through college including degree attainment. Also, they will qualitatively analyze how curricular and support programs at the colleges, as well as students' personal and social experiences, contribute to students' decisions regarding participation in development education.

Products: The researchers will produce evidence of the overall effects of Florida's 2013 developmental education law, as well as its effects for diverse groups of students including students from historically under-represented groups, and students who enter college at different levels of preparedness. The researchers will produce accessible policy briefs and reports for policymakers throughout Florida and across the country. They will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will include all 28 public colleges within the Florida College System. The system includes community colleges and colleges that grant Bachelor's degrees. These colleges are geographically dispersed across the state.

Sample: The quantitative sample will include eight cohorts of approximately 70,000 students each, four of whom attended Florida colleges in the academic years directly preceding the policy reform (2009–10 through 2012–13), and four of whom attended in years directly after the reform (2013–14 through 2016–17). The qualitative sample will include three years of data collection from faculty, staff, and students at three low-performing institutions (according to student outcome measures), three middle-performing institutions, and three high-performing institutions.

Intervention: The intervention is a new developmental education law enacted by the Florida state legislature in 2013, which changed requirements regarding assignment to and provision of developmental education within the Florida College System. Under the new law, any student who entered ninth grade in a Florida public school in the 2003–04 school year or later and earned a high school diploma, as well as any active duty member of the military, is exempted from developmental education placement testing and coursework. Thus, for recent Florida high school graduates, developmental education placement testing and coursework are options that the student can choose, rather than requirements. Also under the new law, developmental education must be delivered through the following strategies: (1) modularized instruction that is customized and targeted to address students' specific skills gaps; (2) compressed course structures that accelerate students' progression from developmental instruction to college-level coursework; (3) contextualized instruction that is related to meta-majors (a collection of programs of study or academic discipline groupings that share common foundational skills); and, (4) co-requisite developmental instruction that combines college-level course material with developmental course material and supports such as tutoring so that students completes both simultaneously.

Research Design and Methods: Using an interrupted time series design, the researchers will compare developmental course participation and student outcomes prior to the law to participation and outcomes after the law. Because the change in Florida law changed developmental choices and options for all students at one time, the researchers did not have the option of observing or creating a control group that was not subject to the policy change. To arrive at a fair estimation of the law's impact on participation and outcomes, the researchers will compare groups of students that are as equivalent as possible given the available data. For example, researchers will compare the outcomes of students exempt from developmental education after the law to students with similar high school performance who were required to take developmental education prior to the law.

Control Condition: Students who entered Florida colleges prior to the policy change will serve as the control group, and researchers will match students from this pre-reform group to students with similar characteristics from the (post-reform) intervention group.

Key Measures: The key outcomes include completion of developmental coursework, enrollment in gateway courses (required for college degrees), course grades and GPA, semester-to-semester persistence, credential attainment (i.e. certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree), and transfer to a four-year institution. Moderating variables will include a full set of demographic measures as well as students' high school GPA, SAT scores, and curriculum type. The mediating measures will include each type of delivery method for developmental courses, as well as students' programs of study. All of the measures will come from Florida's K–20 Education Data Warehouse, with the exception of enrollment and degree completion data for students who move outside the Florida College System, which will be obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use logistic regression to model choice of developmental education as a function of students' characteristics and high school experiences. They will use multinomial logistic regression to model students' choices of developmental education options. To estimate whether there has been an overall change in each student outcomes following the law, researchers will use an interrupted time series model that estimates the effect of the law change in 2014 while controlling for students' preparation for college and the college they attended. To explore how taking developmental education in the post-reform period is related to students' level of preparation for college, researchers will estimate a logistic regression model that interacts developmental education participation with three levels of academic preparation for college (low, medium, and high) based on students' high school performance. The research team will conduct qualitative analyses using preliminary pattern coding of the field notes, focus group transcripts, and interview transcripts. In addition, they will use a five-phase process of coding the data to ensure that all constructs are captured and that there is significant inter-rater reliability in the codes.