Many students entering community colleges are referred to one or more levels of developmental education. Until now, there has been little research on student progression through multiple levels of developmental education and into entry-level college courses.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the patterns and determinants of student progression through sequences of developmental education, starting from initial referral. Results indicate that fewer than one half of the students who are referred to remediation complete the entire sequence to which they are referred. About 30 percent of students referred to developmental education do not enroll in any remedial course, and only about 60 percent of referred students actually enroll in a remedial course.
Overall, the analysis indicates that more students exit their developmental sequences because they did not enroll in the first or a subsequent course than because they failed or withdrew from a course in which they were enrolled.
A version of this paper was published as an article in Economics of Education Review, vol. 29, 2010.
A brief of this paper, Student Progression Through Developmental Sequences in Community Colleges, is available for download.
In January 2015, changes to the text were made on pages 11 and 26 of the working paper version in order to improve clarity. The findings show that 20 percent of students in the sample referred to developmental math and 37 percent of those referred to developmental reading completed a gatekeeper course within three years of initial enrollment after enrolling in a developmental course in that subject. An additional 12 percent of those referred to developmental math and an additional 32 percent of those referred to developmental reading completed a gatekeeper course in that subject without enrolling in a single developmental course in that same subject.