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IES Grant

Title: Changing Policy and Practice in Developmental Education: Assessing the Evidence and Engaging the Field
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Edgecombe, Nicole Awardee: Teachers College, Columbia University
Program: Unsolicited and Other Awards      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (10/01/2020 – 09/30/2023) Award Amount: $965,836
Type: Other Goal Award Number: R305U200010

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to conduct a synthesis of research on developmental education reform, and to disseminate the findings to key stakeholders with the aim of supporting implementation and scaling of effective reform strategies. The research team will collect and analyze evaluation and implementation studies on developmental education from 2010 to 2020, a period during which policymakers and practitioners have worked to implement a host of reform strategies. The synthesis addresses the need to draw clear conclusions about the efficacy, cost, and implementation of the reforms, to strengthen implementation and improve collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

Findings from recent evaluations of developmental education reform strategies such as multiple measures placement and corequisite remediation have demonstrated positive impacts on short-term measures of postsecondary progress such as completion of a first credit-bearing course in math or English. However, less is known regarding the impact of various reform strategies on longer-term academic outcomes and degree completion. Drawing from the full set of available evaluations, the synthesis will identify which strategies lead to improvements in short- and long-term outcomes. In addition, the synthesis will analyze implementation reports for effective strategies, to assess their cost and identify successful processes for bringing them to scale.

The project team will address two broad research questions:

  1. Which reforms to developmental education are effective and for whom?
  2. What does research suggest about implementing and scaling effective reforms?

Project Activities

Phase 1: Conduct the research
To address the first research question, the team will conduct a systematic review of the evaluation literature on developmental education reforms. First, they will compile a list of studies that meet What Works Clearinghouse group design standards. Next, the team will assess which reforms included on the list generate the largest effects on key outcomes and the extent to which they reinforce or ameliorate inequities in outcomes across groupings by race, income, age, and baseline academic performance.

To address the second research question, researchers will identify implementation studies focused on the interventions found in the analysis for the first research question to have a positive effect on meaningful student outcomes. The team will employ qualitative methods to glean from the identified studies the conditions that facilitate scaling of evidence-based reforms, the extent of integration between the reforms and other student support strategies, the cost and cost-effectiveness of the reforms, and influence of the reforms on curriculum and instruction enacted in classrooms. Throughout the project, the team will regularly seek feedback from an advisory panel of practitioners, policymakers, and intermediary representatives. In spring 2022, the team will publish a first version of the synthesis report, including responses from four experts with different roles and experiences within developmental education reform.

Phase 2: Engage multiple stakeholders
The project team will collaboratively disseminate the synthesis through multiple channels including practitioner organizations, policy reform networks, and organizations that support state legislators. The communications group will employ targeted communications to highlight particularly relevant synthesis findings to specific audiences. Researchers will submit conference session proposals on the synthesis findings to practitioner and policymaker conferences in collaboration with reform leaders who bring on-the-ground practice and policy perspectives. The team will also share the synthesis with fellow developmental education researchers through direct outreach and by organizing panels at major education research conferences. The communications group will post a set of web-based tools and resources on the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness website, including a developmental education reform equity toolkit and a set of cost analysis guides. In collaboration with national organizations closely connected to community colleges and broad-access four-year institutions, the team will host four two-hour virtual forums designed to foster conversations among practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. A final version of the synthesis report will be available by summer 2023.

Products: The team will publish a practitioner-focused synthesis report including a set of responses to the synthesis from key stakeholders, and will develop a set of web-based tools and resources designed to help practitioners and policymakers make use of findings from the synthesis.