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Addressing Academic Underpreparedness in Service of College Completion

By: Nikki Edgecombe & Susan Bickerstaff
Addressing Academic Underpreparedness in Service of College Completion

In this article, the authors posit that a reframing of academic preparedness—which is typically conceived as a checklist of skills in literacy and math—is warranted. They describe the developmental reform landscape, including recent efforts to shorten course sequences, revise curriculum, and improve the accuracy of course placements. They then describe research suggesting that most developmental reforms do not lead to substantially higher credential completion rates, arguing that the overall structure of developmental education, even under a reformed model, is neither sustained nor robust enough to dramatically improve students' long-term outcomes.

The authors outline three potential strategies for addressing academic underpreparedness:

  1. Structure remediation in ways that build academic momentum. Colleges can do this by addressing gaps in students' knowledge and skills within college-level coursework whenever possible. They can also utilize intensive and focused approaches for students with more severe needs that are bridged to academic programs.
  2. Position academic supports closer to classrooms for all courses. To do this, colleges will need to strengthen curriculum and teaching and position academic resources, such as tutoring and learning supports, closer to students.
  3. Attend to psychosocial needs by building academic confidence and a sense of belonging. In addition to preparing students academically for college-level work, institutions should support students in developing the nonacademic skills, habits, and dispositions that contribute to their college success.

This article appears in Texas Education Review, vol 6., issue 1., pp. 75–83.