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Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Scaling Coreq for Students Who Need Additional Academic Support – Chapter 3: Meeting the Needs of All Students

Corequisite Support is becoming ubiquitous in the college completion movement, and it is achieving remarkable results. A recent Executive Order in the California State University System and legislation in Texas have added to the momentum and made clear that corequisites are the preferred strategy for serving students who are in need of additional academic support in math and English. Yet, there are still those who argue this intervention will not work for all students.

I hear it often: “Corequisites may work for those close to the cut score, but not for those who test well below it.” The fact is this – corequisites can and do work for all students, regardless of how they perform on college placement exams. More importantly, there is no strategy proven to be more effective for the lowest level students.

There is a major flaw in the opposition’s argument. It assumes that placement exams accurately measure student readiness to learn college-level material, when in fact, that is far from the case. Judith Scott-Clayton from CCRC and extensive research in California have put to rest once and for all that placement exams adequately predict student success in college-level courses. (I will address this issue in more depth in Chapter 5.)

What the evidence does tell us is that students, regardless of performance on a placement exam, are far more successful in corequisites than in traditional prerequisite models. If you have been to one of my presentations, you have seen this slide from Tennessee, which shows that after scaling Corequisite Support for all students in the Tennessee Board of Regents system, community college students – regardless of performance on the ACT – were far more likely to pass a college-level math course in one year.

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Overall, corequisite students were more than four times more likely to pass college-level math courses in one year than traditional prerequisite remedial education.  Most remarkable is that students who scored below a 14 on the ACT were over 10 times more likely to complete a college-level math course in a single semester. While not as dramatic, the results in English look similar.

Detractors might argue that still over 60% of students who score at the lowest level are failing to pass college-level courses in a year. True, there are many students who are not successful – but there is no evidence that another academic support strategy would be more effective.

So what do we do about the remaining 60%? Tennessee found that the solution may have nothing to do with students’ academic readiness in a specific subject and may have much more to do with their overall college readiness.

When Tennessee looked at the student success rates in corequisites, they discovered students who passed corequisite courses and the associated college-level courses, regardless of ACT score, were successful in almost all of their college-level courses. Conversely, students who failed both their college-level course and the associated corequisite course, regardless of ACT, failed almost all of their college courses.

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At face value, this data suggests that measures of academic readiness have no predictive value for assessing ultimate college success. Further, there may be more profound issues, both intrinsic to students and institutions, that are unrelated to academic readiness yet are far more important to student success. Consequently, there is no compelling reason to deny a student access to a college course based on strict academic readiness assessments.

This data suggests that not only should Corequisite Support be available to all students who need academic support, but that corequisites should be the cornerstone of more comprehensive college completion strategies, like guided pathways.

In the next chapter, we will look at how Tennessee has been able to successfully scale Corequisite Support for all their students.

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posted by Bruce Vandal

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