Background. Across the country, many policy-setting organizations and state governments are turning their attention to reforming developmental (remedial) education in two-year colleges. Developmental education, a part of postsecondary education for as long as there’s been postsecondary education in this country, has traditionally been designed to assist students who are underprepared for college in key academic subjects, such as math, reading, and/or writing. Many entering students must complete developmental education requirements, consisting of one or more classes that upon successful completion will allow students to enter their desired program of study. Even recent high school graduates often find themselves scoring too low on entrance assessments to enter college-level classes.
Much of this national attention has gained footing based on numbers that, whether accurate or fair to Nebraska students and colleges, reflect poor performance in terms of completing developmental program requirements. National data indicates that up to 50 percent of students entering two-year colleges and almost 20 percent of those entering four-year institutions are placed in developmental classes. About 4 in 10 never complete remedial courses. (Complete College America, 2012)
Recently, Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) sponsored a developmental education project that began a statewide initiative to create common learning objectives within developmental sequences of classes and placement scores into those sequences. This experience has spurred many additional questions, such as these:
- What resources are being used in the classroom, from textbooks to media to engaged learning strategies?
- What research and practice is addressing our students’ needs and what change in curricular approaches might be a best fit in our institutions?
- What unique and similar challenges are present in our institutions and what is being done to meet these challenges?
- With so many high school graduates winding up in remedial classes, how can we support the preparation of high school students for the transition from high school to college?
Innovation. Many states already have developmental education organizations that facilitate the research and practice that influences national conversations and is informed by other research. A stronger network of developmental education teachers-researchers in conversation is sorely needed in Nebraska where teachers and administrators are geographically isolated. The Nebraska Developmental Education Consortium (NDEC) will build upon groundwork laid by the previous grant to take Nebraska to a new level of collaboration and discovery in developmental education, through a multi-modal approach.
Goals. The goal of this project is to improve teaching and learning in developmental English by sharing current research, theory, and practice that informs curricular approaches across institutions and courses. To accomplish the goal, the project will (1) plan and deliver a statewide conference for secondary and postsecondary faculty and administrators; (2) implement methods of sustaining the work and increasing the impact through creation of a website on which to share research and best practices, inquiry groups on specific topics, and planning additional conferences/seminars (potentially including developmental math) to further strengthen the network of developmental teachers/administrators in Nebraska.
Audience: All six community colleges and six high schools will be invited to participate in the initial conference. Approximately 30 teachers and administrators are expected to participate.