Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Musings on Developmental Education

It's been a busy year, but with summer more than half over, it looks like we're finally settling back into a routine--one that should include regular blog posts.

Developmental Education has been a hot topic of late, nation-wide. Changes abound, whether it is the legislative phasing out of developmental ed. in Connecticut, required "flexibility" in Florida, or various acceleration plans, like those started in Baltimore and California. People are wondering if developmental education "works" (most think not) and what can be done about it.

Part of this intense scrutiny comes from the changes in the Pell grant regulations. With the new regulations, fewer students will qualify for Pell grants, and those who do will have a lower cap on the length of time they're available. As a result, it's more important than ever before to get students into their college-level classes quickly. If they're not careful, they could use up a large amount of their Pell money in developmental classes and not be able to complete their degree.

Many people, especially DE faculty, are cautious, however. They want to make sure that standards are upheld and that the students who go to college-level classes are actually ready for them. Otherwise, it's the same issue at a different level.

And then there's the Common Core.The Common Core is a set of state-wide standards for entry into college-level work. So far, they've been adopted by 45 states. The standards run across disciplines, but the buzz has been about changes in math and language arts. These standards have a major impact on developmental education, since, at least in Common Core states, DE classes will have to meet them as well.

In my own institution, all of these changes mean some major changes for us. We already offer students the possibility of exiting to college level from any of our 4 developmental English levels. We'll be working harder than ever before to increase the number of students who do so. This  may mean an increase in summer enrichment programs for students who complete the coursework but don't meet the exit requirements. It may mean increased support outside of the classroom. It may mean something else we haven't tried yet.

We're also working on adapting the CCBC Accelerated Learning Program to our own needs, with an eye toward piloting in Spring 2014. (The faculty are very excited about this program, as am I. Other schools who use it have shown incredible results.)

Finally, we need to make changes in our curriculum to reflect the Common Core Standards. This means refocusing some of our objectives, adding some outcomes, and possibly removing others.

We have our work cut out for us, but it promises to be an exciting year, one that will improve our teaching, our learning, and our students' experiences here.