WWC review of this study

Shining the Spotlight on Those outside Florida's Reform Limelight: The Impact of Developmental Education Reform for Nonexempt Students [Post-2014 Program]

Mokher, Christine G., Park-Gaghan, Toby, Hu, Shouping (2021). Journal of Higher Education v92 n1 p84-115. . Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED611562

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: November 2021

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Progressing in college outcomes—Statistically significant negative effects found
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Completion of an advanced math course

Florida's development education program (after the 2014 reform) vs. Business as usual

1 Year

Students near the threshold of being assigned to upper developmental education or college-level business-as-usual education;
4,949 students




More Outcomes

Completion of Intermediate Algebra

Florida's development education program (after the 2014 reform) vs. Other intervention

1 Year

Students near the threshold of being assigned to lower developmental education or upper-level developmental education;
6,491 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 53%
    Male: 47%

  • Rural, Suburban, Urban
    • B
    • A
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    • D
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  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity


The study took place in all 28 institutions of the Florida College System.

Study sample

A total of 11,440 first-time-in-college students in Florida were included in the study. Specifically, the data are from the 2014 and 2015 entering cohorts in all 28 institutions of the Florida College System. The sample consists of students who were eligible for the Florida developmental education program according to eligibility requirements as they existed in 2014 and later. In particular, students must have met at least one of three eligibility criteria to be included in the analysis: (1) not have a transcript record from a Florida public high school, (2) not have completed a standard high school diploma, or (3) have a standard high school diploma prior to 2006-2007. The study excluded students who did not have placement scores on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) or had incomplete high school administrative records. Sample characteristics were not available for the analytic sample. Among all non-exempt students across four student cohorts, 53% were female. Forty-one percent were White, 20% were Black, and 39% did not report race. Thirty-two percent were Hispanic or Latino, and the rest did not report ethnicity.

Intervention Group

This study examines Florida's developmental math education program, which required entering college students to take developmental math courses if they scored below college-ready in a placement exam. This review focuses on the findings for the reformed version of the program that was in place starting in 2014. Similar to the pre-reform version of the program, the post-reformed version assigned students to take either lower- or upper- developmental education courses for one semester depending on one's placement score. The lower-level course is the first course in a college-preparatory two-course sequence emphasizing fundamental operations with applications to beginning algebra. The upper-level course is the second course in the college preparatory sequence which provides algebraic background on topics including fundamental operations with polynomials, linear equalities, factoring, and an introduction to radicals. Students assigned to the intervention were required to take these development courses before they could take college-level math courses. The post-reform version of the program required colleges to offer development courses in a way that was intended to allow students to complete them more quickly, such as shorter courses. The post-reform version of the program also included access to additional advising services and academic supports, such as online orientation resources, longer advising sessions, and online tutoring. The outcomes were measured after students' first year in college.

Comparison Group

The comparison condition differed for the two levels of the developmental education intervention: (1) students assigned to upper-developmental education courses were compared to students who were placed into the business-as-usual college-level curriculum without developmental education courses, and (2) students assigned to lower-developmental education courses were compared to students who were assigned to upper-developmental education courses.

Support for implementation

Schools provided additional advising and academic support services to all incoming students. This took the form of more online orientation resources and advising sessions. These were implemented by adopting online tutoring programs and adding or increasing faculty time in success centers or tutoring. Schools also identified and spent additional time with at-risk students.


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