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How Effective Are Community College Remedial Math Courses for Students With the Lowest Math Skills?

By: Di Xu & Mina Dadgar
How Effective Are Community College Remedial Math Courses for Students With the Lowest Math Skills?

This article examines the effectiveness of remediation for community college students who are identified as having the lowest skills in math. The authors use transcript data from a state community college system and take advantage of a regression discontinuity design that compares statistically identical students who are assigned to the lowest level of the math sequence that consists of three remedial courses versus the next lowest level that consists of two courses.

The results suggest that for students with the lowest preparation in math, the longest developmental sequence offers little benefit and may even reduce the likelihood of earning a degree to certificate within four years. This study is one of the first attempts to compare the academic outcomes of students assigned to long sequences of developmental math education with the outcomes of students with similar academic skills but assigned to shorter developmental math sequences. Results from this study inform the national effort in reforming remedial education, especially in terms of whether shortening the long remedial sequence would either benefit or harm the academic outcomes of students who are least prepared for college-level coursework.