The study took place at four City University of New York (CUNY) campuses: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, and Queensborough Community College. CUNY Start is housed in each college’s Continuing Education division.
56 percent of students in the study were female. Most students were Hispanic (44 percent) or Black (32 percent), and 44 percent were non-native English speakers. 35 percent were the first person in their family to attend college. 48 percent were 19 years old or younger, while 22 percent were 24 or older. Half (51 percent) required developmental instruction in three subject areas, 33 percent in two subject areas, and 15 percent in one subject area.
CUNY Start is a one-semester program for students assessed as needing remediation; it has both a full-time and part-time version. The full-time version is open to students who need remediation in math and reading or writing (or in all three subjects), while the part-time version is also open to students who need remediation in only one subject. CUNY Start provides up to 26.5 hours of intensive instruction following a prescribed approach in math, reading, and writing; it also provides advising, tutoring, and a weekly college skills seminar. CUNY Start's math instructional approach is student-centered, rather than lecture-centered, and "integrates arithmetic and algebra and encourages conceptual understanding, real-world learning, and the building of academic skills..." (p. ES-6). CUNY Start's instructional approach to reading and writing is less substantively different than the standard developmental courses in these areas but integrates the two subjects to allow students to move more quickly through their developmental requirements. Students pay $75 to participate in CUNY Start (the cost is not covered by financial aid but, therefore, does not require students' to use one of their semesters of federal financial aid eligibility). The program's goal is to prepare students for college-level courses while providing all of the developmental education they need in one semester. After 12 weeks of CUNY Start, students take exit tests in the subject areas for which they needed remediation; if they pass, they are eligible to take college-level courses the next semester; if they fail, they receive three to six additional weeks of CUNY Start instruction before being reassessed.
The comparison condition was "business as usual." Students could receive standard developmental or college-level courses and services.
Support for implementation
"CUNY Start instructors are expected to spend a paid apprenticeship semester observing and assisting lead instructors before they begin teaching their own classes. After the apprenticeship period, CUNY Start professional development staff members provide continuing training and support" (p. 11). The implementation evaluation indicated the CUNY Start was implemented as intended.