CBD Pathway Design Principles
Completion by Design (CBD) has identified a set of pathway design principles drawn from research, practice, and participating colleges’ experience during the planning phase. We plan to use most newsletters to delve more deeply into the principles, one at a time, and to spotlight how the CBD colleges are putting them into practice during implementation.
While there is no single model for a completion pathway – defined as an integrated set of institutional policies, practices, and programs intended to maximize students’ likelihood of completing a credential – these principles help inform the choices colleges make when designing their pathways. Creating systemic change requires attention to the eight principles listed on the right, but colleges must strategically implement the principles based on their local context and students’ needs.
The 8 Design Principles
- 1. Accelerate Entry into Coherent Programs of Study
- 2. Minimize Time Required to Get College-Ready
- 3. Ensure Students Know Requirements to Succeed
- 4. Customize and Contextualize Instruction
- 5. Integrate Student Supports with Instruction
- 6. Continually Monitor Student Progress and Proactively Provide Feedback
- 7. Reward Behaviors that Contribute to Completion
- 8. Leverage Technology to Improve Learning and Program Delivery
Featured Design Principle
Minimize Time Required to Get College-Ready (#2)
In this edition, we will look at the detailed aspects of the second design principle, which includes these components:
- Help students avoid developmental education whenever possible.
- Design assessment and placement to match students to customized interventions that provide only what they need and no more.
- Provide remediation simultaneously with college-level work rather than sequentially.
- Provide multiple pathways that allow students to acquire only the content they need to succeed in their desired academic programs.
- Base progress on demonstrated competency rather than seat time.
Design Principle #2
In Research and In the Field
While developmental education and related issues have long been recognized as a critical component of community college student success efforts, in recent months there have been some important reports and provocative research findings in this area. They include:
- Core Principles for Transforming Remedial Education: This joint statement from the Dana Center, Complete College America, the Education Commission of the States, and CBD partner Jobs for the Future sums up the mounting evidence that fundamental reform is necessary to prepare large numbers of aspiring postsecondary students for college-level academic work, and offers principles to guide that reform.
- Practitioner Resource Packet: This month Community College Research Center (CCRC), a CBD partner, released “Designing Meaningful Developmental Reform,” a set of resources to assist administrators as they approach reform. The packet includes a synthesis and Q&A on key aspects of related CCRC research, as well as presentation slides to support data-informed conversations with stakeholders.
- Statistics on Remedial Coursetaking: A recent IES report on first-year remedial coursetaking trends shows a decline from 1999-2000 to 2003-2004, followed by a slight increase in 2007-2008. As Mike Kirst and others have commented, however, there is reason to doubt that student coursetaking in developmental education accurately reflects the scope of the need for remediation.
- Ahead of the Curve: This analysis of three years of progress on the Developmental Education Initiative reports on the relative success of five targeted policy levers, and provides illustrative case studies of the six DEI states.
- Recent work on assessment and placement, specifically: This blog post summarizes a specific aspect of design principle #2 that is currently on a big question for the community field. Despite recent work by CCRC calling into question the adequacy of standardized placement exams, a November study suggests that most colleges still rely solely on those exams to refer students to developmental education.
Design Principle #2
In Practice in CBD
All of the CBD cadres are implementing strategies related to this design principle. To give you a snapshot of one cadre’s work across institutions and at the state level, we asked George Fouts (Senior Partner for CBD in the North Carolina cadre) to write the following update of recent work in his state.
North Carolina’s effort to accelerate students’ movement through developmental education began prior to Completion by Design. In 2009, Guilford Technical Community College was awarded a Developmental Education Initiative (DEI) grant and began three years of focusing on key strategies to increase the success of those students. At the same time, the North Carolina Community College System Office established a DEI State Policy Team to study the implications of this work for the 58 community colleges in the system. The NC CBD cadre’s in-depth analysis of student data during the 2011-12 planning year confirmed what we knew: a large percentage of our entering students (60-70%) place into developmental education in at least one area (math, English, or reading). And, only a small percentage of that number ever finish their developmental sequences, move on to credit-level coursework in their programs of study, and eventually earn a certificate or diploma.
Therefore, as the cadre designed its completion pathway, much attention was given to design principle #2—minimize time required to get college-ready. We expect our set of strategies to enable a large number of entering students to either avoid developmental education completely or to dramatically accelerate their successful progress through that coursework and into their programs of study. All of these new approaches require changes in state and/or local policies, and the NC cadre has worked closely with the system office to develop a policy agenda that supports the new completion pathway.
As a result of the work done by the DEI State Policy Team prior to the launch of CBD, the modularization of developmental math is already being implemented across the system, and the modularization of a new developmental English/reading program has begun. The state has also contracted for the creation of a new diagnostic placement test which should identify more clearly the skills which each student lacks.
Cadre colleges are also implementing summer bridge programs to allow new students to complete their developmental work during the summer term and be ready to enter their programs of study by the fall.
Another key strategy is to provide concurrent enrollment of near-college ready developmental students in credit-level, gateway courses. This technique not only accelerates movement through developmental education but also allows these students an early connection with their major course work.
A final initiative involves using multiple placement measures, particularly the high school GPA, to place new students. The DEI State Policy Team contracted with CCRC to conduct a research study on this issue, which demonstrated that a student’s high school GPA would have been a better predictor of success than a traditional placement test score. These findings have been presented to a wide variety of state groups over the past year, including presidents, trustees, faculty and staff.
Of all the acceleration innovations proposed by the CBD cadre, using additional placement measures beyond traditional placement tests has been the most controversial. A system-wide, multiple measures committee was formed to dig deep into the CCRC study and other research on the issue. The work of this committee was thorough; they met with the presidents’ association, the instructional administrators’ association, and the student development administrators’ association. Almost a year was spent vetting a proposal to change the system’s current placement policy. The State Board of Community Colleges recently approved a change in the system’s placement policy to allow high school GPA to be used as the primary placement measure. While this change has been controversial, many early opponents have altered their positions and others have at least adopted a “wait and see” attitude. Those changes in position resulted from a process which encouraged all groups to fully engage in the analysis of the research data and participate in the development of the new policy. All parties involved in this work know that our system will monitor these changes and study the results to insure that acceleration is accomplished without loss of program quality.
Our system president, Dr. Scott Ralls, has often described developmental education as the Bermuda Triangle of community colleges—a place into which a lot of students enter but only a few successfully emerge. Each of the design principles informs the new North Carolina Cadre’s completion pathway, but this one will have the most impact on substantially increasing the percentage of students who enter and complete programs of study that lead to a job or to successful transfer into a four-year program.
"Consistent with recent research from CCRC, colleges in North Carolina and elsewhere are revamping their placement systems to incorporate multiple assessment measures, including high school grades and in some cases non-cognitive skills. They are also rethinking developmental education based on studies by CCRC and others indicating that developmental instruction serves more to divert students from college-level coursework than to build their skills for college. The challenge is to align these reforms with efforts to create more structured programs of study, so that instead of misdirecting and diverting students, colleges create on-ramps to courses of study that enable students to complete credentials as quickly as possible and prepare them to succeed in further education and the labor market. The CBD colleges are tackling this challenge and I believe will show the field how it can be done."
– Davis Jenkins, Senior Research Associate, Community College Research Center
What's Next for CBD
Teams from the three cadres convened for a mid-year retreat this week, which will include workshops on priority issues for implementation. In future newsletters, we will discuss highlights, breakthroughs, and reflections from the event, as well as from the day-to-day progress of CBD colleges and partners.
Other Resources & Work We're Watching
- Game Changers: We hope you saw the announcements of three new CBD resources from WestEd—a series of briefs on “Game Changer” strategies. If you missed them, the reports Acceleration in Developmental Education, Structured Pathways to Completion, Integrating Student Supports and Academics are all available online.
- Recent work by RP Group: One of CBD’s partners, RP Group, recently released findings from the first year of another project, Student Support (Re)Defined, outlining students’ perspectives on how six success factors contribute to their achievement—and these students' recommendations for action. Both the full report and the brief on key themes are available on the project site, and include discussion questions for college-level planning.
- National Commission on Higher Education Attainment report: This open letter calls on college and university leaders to make student attainment a critical priority for everyone at their institutions. The commission makes a set of recommendations intended to organize and mobilize colleges and universities, from designating a senior official with “ownership” over all degree completion efforts to prioritizing faculty development to using data more effectively. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities also recently released a brief—the “Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2013”—which echoes many of the same issues and priorities.
- Next Generation Learning Challenges Update: This report summarizes 10 program designs awarded grants through the “Breakthrough Models for College Completion” challenge. Along with the profiles, the brief highlights what the models have in common—key programmatic features that reflect the “breakthrough” approach to boosting learning and student success.
- Other relevant and thought-provoking work: We also encourage you to check out this series of policy briefs from CEPA about issues facing broad-access institutions, a white paper from IHEP developed as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, and a comprehensive report from McKinsey featuring perceptions of students, education providers, and employers from around the world on education-to-employment linkages.