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Research Questions

  1. How do corequisite policies in Texas fit into the developmental education reform movement, and how will RAND's study with American Institutes for Research and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board help to inform these reform efforts?
  2. What are the different types of corequisite models being implemented across Texas community colleges?
  3. What are the range of decisions colleges must make in designing and implementing corequisites, and how have Texas community colleges approached these decisions?
  4. What are the challenges to implementing corequisites?
  5. What strategies do administrators and faculty at community colleges perceive to have helped to overcome challenges?

Many students who enter community colleges are underprepared in reading, writing, and/or mathematics. Colleges typically require students who are not college-ready to enroll in developmental education, which has traditionally consisted of a series of subject-based courses for students to complete prior to entering college-level courses. However, evidence indicates that traditional approaches to developmental education were not working for many students. In response to this troubling evidence, states and higher education institutions across the United States are rethinking the way they address college readiness.

This report focuses on the corequisite implementation experiences of Texas community colleges in fall 2016. Authors provide background on recent developmental education reforms in Texas and across the nation and describe their rigorous experimental study of integrated reading and writing corequisites in Texas. Then, they describe early implementation findings drawn from interviews and survey data collected from faculty and administrators at 36 community colleges in Texas. The findings indicate that Texas community colleges are implementing a range of different types of corequisite models, and an appendix details wide-ranging decisions on design and implementation. The report also documents four types of challenges colleges have faced in implementing corequisites: lack of stakeholder buy-in, issues with scheduling and advising, limited instructional preparation and support, and uncertainty around state policy. After describing these challenges, the authors discuss strategies reported by institutions as helpful in avoiding or overcoming these challenges. Finally, the report concludes by reflecting on these early findings and their implications for the developmental education reform movement.

Key Findings

  • Five common types of corequisite models were identified as being implemented in the participating Texas community colleges: paired-course models, extended instructional time models, Accelerated Learning Program models, academic support service models, and technology-mediated support models.
  • Challenges to implementation included lack of stakeholder buy-in, issues with scheduling and advising, limited instructional preparation and support, and uncertainty around state policy.
  • Efforts to build buy-in and address challenges were essential to successful implementation.
  • Some strategies, such as dedicated time for design, professional development, and small class sizes, could be more costly.
  • Unique features, such as use of a single instructor for the corequisites and mixed-ability peer groups, could be important to the effectiveness of their models but often faced more challenges with scheduling, advising, and buy-in across the institution.

Recommendations

  • Institutions and states should consider a range of different corequisite models as having the potential to support success among underprepared students, and should give careful thought to the range of decisions required around the design and implementation of corequisites.
  • Institutions and states should prioritize collaboration and communication efforts as they move to scale corequisites by bringing a broader range of individuals into the planning process and ensuring that all stakeholders within the institution are informed about goals for corequisites within the institution, details on implementation, and evidence on effectiveness.
  • Institutions and states will need to consider how the corequisite models can be designed and implemented in a feasible way that allows for scaling, while also retaining the mechanisms that are believed to be most impactful in driving student outcomes. Decisions on how to balance trade-offs in implementation may vary depending on the student populations served, the timeline for implementation, and institutional context.
  • Policies should facilitate experimentation, research, and continuous improvement as corequisites are scaled.
  • Institutions should use the rigorous research evidence provided in future study reports on Texas corequisites to understand the effectiveness of corequisites, identify the characteristics of students most likely to succeed in corequisites, and adopt promising practices for implementation.

The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education and conducted by RAND Education.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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