A new study shows that nearly three quarters of recent Oregon high school graduates entering community college took at least one developmental (or remedial) course because they were deemed unprepared for postsecondary work. This finding mirrors other studies around the country indicating that large numbers of community college students must first take and pass noncredit-bearing classes in English, math, and/or writing that may pose obstacles to continuing on to earn a college degree.
Analyzing state and national data from more than 100,000 students, the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest study concludes there are large gaps in college persistence and completion among Oregon public high school graduates who start in developmental education versus college-level English and math courses. And, students who begin at lower levels of developmental education are less likely to stay in college and finish a degree program. For example, 63 percent of students who began community college in a college-level math course were still in college or had earned a credential (i.e., a certificate, two-year, and/or four-year degree), compared to 22 percent of those who began in arithmetic, the lowest level of developmental math, and 49 percent of those who began in intermediate algebra, the highest level of developmental math.
The study also shows that students’ high school grades and participation in some dual-credit courses (i.e., courses that carry both high school and college credit at the same time) decrease the likelihood that they will take developmental education at community college. Overall, for recent high school graduates, individual academic achievement (e.g., test scores) and experiences (e.g., dual credit course-taking) in high school influenced whether students enrolled in developmental education more than sociodemographic and school characteristics did.
According to study author Michelle Hodara, “The study provides further motivation for efforts underway in Oregon to align high school, college and career expectations; increase access to rigorous coursework for all students; and strengthen partnerships between high school and colleges.”
The study was undertaken at the request of the Oregon College and Career Readiness Research Alliance (OR CCR), a research-practice partnership between REL Northwest and a large group of higher education, state, and school district policymakers and practitioners.
OR CCR member Hilda Rosselli, College and Career Readiness Director at the Oregon Education Investment Board, described the alliance’s data analysis work as “beneficial” and “very useful” in communicating with legislators and other stakeholders. Rosselli said, “It disaggregated data in a way to be able to say to folks, ‘Anytime you just present data as an average and don’t look at it by particular groups of students, [you’re] missing those opportunities to define the solutions that are really going to help move the students’ progress forward.’”
Download the full report at the Institute of Education Sciences website.