A Case Study of Developmental Education Redesign at Two Oregon Community Colleges

February 2017
smiling high school student

Nationally, approximately two-thirds of community college students are considered academically underprepared each year and must pass developmental education courses in math, reading, and/or writing before progressing into college-level English and math courses.

Students who take developmental education courses persist and graduate at lower rates than their counterparts who start college in college-level coursework. Students must also invest time and money on these courses without earning credit toward a degree.

In response to these concerns, community colleges across the country are working to improve developmental education by changing how they assess and place students, adopting reforms that accelerate students’ progress through developmental education and enhancing student services.

Developmental education redesign in Oregon

Facilitated by the Oregon Community College Association (OCCA), the Developmental Education Redesign Work Group formed in November 2013 to examine national reforms and identify those with a high potential to decrease student attrition and time to completion. The group’s recommendations included reforms in mathematics, reading and writing, student services, assessment and placement, professional development, and data collection.

Since 2014, Oregon’s community colleges have all voluntarily undertaken these reforms. Each college has assigned a campus lead to coordinate its reform efforts. The campus leads meet quarterly as a learning community to discuss implementation challenges and share best practices.

Overview of this study and report

To better understand how developmental education reforms are being implemented in Oregon, REL Northwest partnered with the OCCA to conduct a survey of stakeholders from all 17 Oregon community colleges and a case study of two colleges. The survey provides a snapshot of the progress each campus is making in implementing reforms, while the case study offers an in-depth examination of redesign processes and interim outcomes at Clackamas Community College (CCC) and Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC).

This report focuses primarily on the case study findings and is intended as a resource to support the adoption, adaptation, and scaling of developmental education redesign in Oregon. The lessons learned can also inform national reform efforts, particularly the Guided Pathways work, which seeks to transform the way community colleges serve all students.

Download Report