Monday, March 27, 2017
Corequisite Remediation Going Coast to Coast

Five years ago, Complete College America made the case that traditional remediation is higher education’s Bridge to Nowhere. In the years that followed, we’ve worked with some of the nation’s leading reformers to chart a better path forward through Corequisite Remediation. Today, not only are we seeing big results from the states, but momentum around adoption of Corequisite Remediation and Math Pathways is reaching its greatest heights yet.

Two of the nation’s largest and most respected higher education systems have now committed to scaling Corequisite Remediation and Math Pathways for their students. A recent story in the New York Times reported that the City University of New York (CUNY) would be moving aggressively to implement the reforms by 2018. Meanwhile, the California State University Board of Trustees announced a new policy to end the practice of prerequisite remediation at all of their campuses and move to corequisite support as the strategy for meeting the needs for their students, also by 2018. Collectively, these two systems serve over 700,000 students annually.

Both CUNY and the California State System have long traditions of being bellwethers of reform on issues of college readiness and remedial education. CUNY sparked the remedial education reform movement in the 1990s, and the California State system planted seeds for the development of the K-16 movement in the early 2000s through their efforts to create greater curricular alignment between K-12 and higher education.

Both systems cite the outstanding results achieved by Tennessee, West Virginia and other states featured in CCA’s Spanning the Divide report. And both systems acknowledge Complete College America’s efforts to make the case for Corequisite Remediation and to support state and system implementations as critical to their decisions to take these strategies to scale.

In addition to the work underway at CUNY and the California State System, CCA is working in 12 other states to promote the scaling of Corequisite Remediation. Each of the states involved in the Corequisite at Scale Initiative have committed to scaling the strategy by 2018.

The results of these collective reforms will result in tens of thousands of students – students who would otherwise never make it to and through a gateway course – completing gateway courses within a single semester.

Corequisite Remediation and Math Pathways are both critical to building student momentum into and through programs of study, especially as it relates the first academic year. With research proving that students are far more likely to earn their degree when they complete gateway math and English courses and earn 30 credits in their first year (including nine credits in their program), it’s clear that our Game Changer strategies are fueling big changes and big gains throughout the country.

We’re doing important work together, and the college completion movement is growing stronger.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Rhode Island Governor Thinking Big About College Completion and Affordability

We’ve all seen the statistics: 42 million Americans now carry student loan debt, a daunting economic anchor that totals 1.3 trillion dollars for borrowers. And here in Rhode Island, students graduate with more than $35,000 on average in student loan debt – the second highest amount in the country.

It is a crisis we must address, but as Complete College America has asserted on many occasions, affordability initiatives must go further than simply providing tuition-free college; efforts must instead be designed to ensure students actually complete their degrees and enter the workforce. In other words, scholarship programs must be built for completion.

Fortunately for Rhode Islanders, Governor Raimondo is thinking big about how to address these challenges, providing leadership that is focused not just on affordability, but also on her goals of “radically increasing the number of college graduates in the state” and ensuring residents have the opportunity to compete in a 21st Century economy.

“Rhode Island may be our nation’s smallest state, but Governor Raimondo is setting a big example for leaders around the nation.”

Unlike many other free-college proposals, Governor Raimondo’s plan, which would cover the cost of a two-year degree or half the cost of a four-year degree, includes eligibility requirements that illustrate an uncommon and outsized understanding of what it will take for Rhode Island to produce more graduates and reduce costs in the process. Simply put, this plan may be the best we’ve seen.

The fact is that far too few students, even those considered full time, take the number of credits needed each year to graduate on time. The result: community college students in Rhode Island take an average of four years to earn their two-year degree, and students at four-year institutions often take an extra semester. That extra time on campus means thousands of dollars more in tuition and fees, room and board, debt, and foregone wages. And that’s just for the students who make it to graduation day; many will drop out, racking up debt without the benefits of obtaining a college degree.

Under Governor Raimondo’s plan, student success and completion are the priority. Four-year students would be required to complete 60 credits by the end of their sophomore year in order to receive the tuition waiver – a smart move considering research shows that students who take at least 30 credits per year have higher GPAs, better retention rates, and an increased likelihood of completing their degrees.

Four-year students would also be required to declare a major prior to eligibility in the program. We know that the more credits students take within their program of study, and the earlier they do so, the more momentum they have heading toward graduation. Rather than meandering through coursework and racking up excess credits, students would be incentivized to get on track, stay on track, and ultimately graduate.

For community college students, eligibility would also require full-time attendance, and data from around the country makes clear why: part-time students are far less likely to complete their degrees, even when given double the time to do so. If Rhode Island wants more graduates, more students need to attend full time.

Let’s be clear, though: students aren’t the only ones who need to change their behavior. Institutions must also take steps to ensure on-time completion is the norm and not the exception on their campuses. They can do this by changing the way they deliver remedial education, providing clear and timely academic pathways that lead to a degree, structuring schedules so that students can go full-time even if they are balancing a family and work with school, and giving students the support and guidance needed to reach their goals. Accordingly, any additional tax dollars provided to institutions for implementation of this plan must be tied to real changes like these that are proven to produce more graduates.

Rhode Island may be our nation’s smallest state, but Governor Raimondo is setting a big example for leaders around the nation. More important, she is providing Rhode Island taxpayers more bang for their hard-earned buck: college educations that are more affordable and more likely.

posted by Tom Sugar


Thursday, March 2, 2017
Math Pathways Work Reaches Major Milestone

State higher education and math faculty leaders from six trailblazing states came together in Denver this week to share early results from Complete College America and Charles Dana Center’s Building Math Pathways into Programs of Study (BMPPS) Initiative, funded by the Lumina Foundation. Representatives from Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio showcased statewide efforts to end the practice of referring most students, regardless of their chosen programs of study, into College Algebra courses that are designed primarily to support students pursuing college programs that require Calculus, such as those in STEM fields.

At far too many colleges across the country, students who have no intention of entering programs that require Calculus are either placed into College Algebra or remedial course sequences intended to prepare students for College Algebra. Too few of these students complete the courses, which in turn negatively impacts their prospects for completing a degree.

The six states involved in the BMPPS initiative have designed new gateway math pathways that enable students pursuing non-STEM programs to enroll in rigorous and transferable math courses with instruction and content that is more relevant to their chosen program of study. Several institutions have begun to create pathways and expect to see significant improvements in their gateway math completion rates.

In addition, states are designing advising systems to assist students in better aligning their choice of a gateway math course with their chosen program of study, revising program requirements to align to the new pathways, and implementing Corequisite Remediation to enable students in need of additional academic support to receive it while enrolled in college-level gateway math courses.

All of the state initiatives are the result of a groundswell of support from math faculty leaders who have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the low success rates of students in gateway math courses and the negative impact it has had on students attitudes about and understanding of mathematics, not to mention their college success rates. In all cases, math faculty leaders from across these states came together to develop a set of recommendations on the role of mathematics in undergraduate education and the design of new math pathways that will ensure all college graduates have the quantitative skills needed to be productive workers and citizens.

All six states have or are in the process of developing learning outcomes and fully transferable courses in their new math pathways.

Some of the other major accomplishments in states include:

  • Nevada institutions have implemented plans and benchmarks for dramatically increasing the number and percent of new entering students who enroll in and complete gateway math courses in their first academic year. Early results are showing significant increases in enrollments in math courses at all of the state’s colleges and universities.
  • Ohio has designed a new Quantitative Reasoning pathway that will result in new quantitative reasoning courses for students in non-STEM majors. They are now providing intensive professional development for faculty on these courses.
  • Montana and Missouri are designing corequisite models for their new math pathway courses. Montana is fully committed to scaling corequisite support in both College Algebra and their newly-aligned Quantitative Reasoning course beginning in Fall 2018.
  • Colorado has created “Degrees of Designation” for high-enrollment programs in the social sciences and humanities where the math requirements for those programs are the same for virtually all institutions offering those programs in the state.
  • Indiana has created a new, transferable quantitative reasoning course and included it in their state transfer library. In addition, Indiana has designed new meta-majors that will be critical to guiding students into appropriate math courses based on their chosen program of study.


Next steps for the initiative will be to collect data on student outcomes as each states begins to scale their pathways. Preliminary findings from a handful of early adopting institutions will be available this summer. In addition, CCA will continue to work with states to fully support implementation at scale.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Thursday, July 28, 2016
Coreq and College Algebra

Spanning the Divide revealed dramatic improvements in gateway math course success when institutions shift from traditional prerequisite remediation to Corequisite Remediation.  However, many have rightly pointed out that much of the corequisite success for math students is for students enrolled in quantitative reasoning and statistics courses. The question posed by many is whether corequisites work for college algebra and whether success in corequisite college algebra translates into success in subsequent math courses.

Of the current corequisite scale states, Georgia has used corequisites for college algebra most extensively. In addition, there are individual institutions like University of Nevada Reno and Oklahoma State that have utilized corequisites for their college algebra courses.  The data from these institutions reveals that corequisites can most definitely work in college algebra.

College of Coastal Georgia

As the University of Georgia System shifts to a policy where at least 50% of all students in need of academic support will receive it via corequisites, institutions like the College of Coastal Georgia have begun offering corequisites for their college algebra and quantitative reasoning courses.

Before the implementation of coreq at CCG, only about 36% of students placed into remedial education were completing gateway math courses in two academic years.  Now, 56% of students placed into the corequisite college algebra course are completing college algebra in a single semester.  The success rate for college algebra students is not far off from the success rates of 62% for students who are placed directly into college algebra.

Equally important is the success rate in subsequent math courses after college algebra.  Because Georgia is moving to a math pathways strategy, college algebra is no longer viewed as a terminal math course and instead is seen as a gateway into higher level math, including calculus.  The results from CCG show that corequisite college algebra can be a gateway into higher level math.  Of those that completed corequisite college algebra, 53% who enrolled in Trigonometry received a “C” or better.  This percent is comparable to the 63% success rate for students who did not require the corequisite college algebra course.

Oklahoma State University

OSU made a similar shift to a college algebra corequisite for students who intend to pursue a calculus based math sequence. The results are equally as promising.

Of those placed into the college algebra corequisite, 65.5% completed the course with a “C” or better, slightly below the 68.8% of students placed directly into college algebra.  Most promising is that first generation college students actually performed better in the corequisite course than those placed directly into college algebra. 68.7% of first generation students who enrolled in the college algebra corequisite completed the course, compared to 63% of first generation college students placed directly into college algebra.

Success rates for students in subsequent math courses were 83.7% for students who completed the corequisite college algebra course.  Most students who enrolled in subsequent math were enrolled in either Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus or Business Calculus.

University of Nevada Reno

The success of students enrolled in corequisite college algebra has been documented previously by CCA in this blog post.  Most interesting is that UNR is seeing that students who completed their college algebra corequisite are very successful in subsequent college courses.  UNR found that successful corequisite college algebra students were far more likely to pass either Business Calculus or Pre-Calculus than students who were placed directly into those two courses.  88% of successful corequisite college algebra students who enrolled in Business Calculus were successful, compared to only 74% who were placed directly into Business Calculus.  Likewise, 84% of corequisite college algebra completers passed Pre-Calculus, compared to 83% for those who placed directly into Pre-Calculus.

While the data is still preliminary, there is reason to believe that as states create a more streamlined pathway for college algebra into higher level math, Corequisite Remediation can become a viable strategy for increasing access and success into programs of study in STEM fields and other fields that require higher-level math.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Friday, February 12, 2016
Remedial Education’s Role in Perpetuating Achievement Gaps

With new research adding to the evidence that students of color are far less likely to earn postsecondary credentials, we are once again faced with the challenge of how we can best close achievement gaps in postsecondary education.  It is abundantly clear that increasing attainment rates among students of color, first generation students and low-income students is essential to dramatically increasing college completion rates. CCA remains committed to tackling head on the issues of educational equity and helping states implement CCA’s Game Changers to improve outcomes for traditionally underrepresented populations.

Recent data from Complete College America’s Alliance of States finds that students of color and low-income students are far more likely to be placed into remedial education and, consequently, far less likely to ever pass college-level courses in math and English.  In particular, African American students are most disadvantaged by the prevailing system of traditional pre-requisite remedial education. 70% of African American community college students and almost half enrolled at non-flagship, four-year institutions are placed into and enroll in at least one remedial course in their first academic year. Students receiving Pell grants are also far more likely to be placed into remedial education, meaning that these students are expending this financial resource on courses that do not count toward a postsecondary credential.

Percent of New Entering Students Enrolled in Remedial Education



Not only are students of color and low-income students more likely to be placed into remedial education, they are more likely to be placed in both remedial math and English.  40% of African American students, 30% of Latino students and 32% of Pell students at community colleges are enrolled in both remedial math and English.  As a result, these students have, at a minimum, two additional courses they must enroll in, complete and pay for as part of their postsecondary education.  For many, they must complete multiple remedial math and English courses before they ever see a college-level math or English course.  It is easy to understand how placement in remedial education could negatively impact efforts to boost completion rates among students of color and low-income students.  Ultimately, these students must do more and pay more for their degree.

Percent of New Entering 2-year Students Enrolled in Remedial Math, English or Both Subjects


Not surprisingly, students of color and low-income students placed into remedial education are far less likely to complete their remedial education requirements, enroll in and complete college-level math courses within 2-years.  Only 11% of African American students complete their gateway math and/or English course in two academic years after being placed in remedial education.

Percent of New Entering Community College Students Completing Gateway Math and/or English Courses in Two Academic Years 


Adding time and cost to a degree by placing students in long remedial sequences disproportionately impacts low-income students and students of color, arguably contributing to – not eliminating – the college equity gap in postsecondary education.

CCA’s recent report Spanning the Divide is showing that Corequisite Remediation – placing students into college-level courses and providing support while enrolled in those courses – is increasing college-level gateway course pass rates to nearly three times the rate of traditional remediation, and it’s happening in about a quarter of the time.  It stands to reason that the movement toward large-scale implementation of corequisite support can reduce the equity gap in higher education. There are many examples of Minority Serving Institutions and Community Colleges that have already undertaken this work to better serve underrepresented students. Our job is to amplify that existing work and move it to scale.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The Research Behind Corequisite Remediation

Complete College America will soon be releasing a new report that documents tremendous improvements in gateway course success rates as a result of Corequisite Remediation.  While we have consistently seen remarkable institutional data, the new report will look at Corequisite Remediation as a scaled, state-wide initiative.

Results from the states are exciting, but it’s important to note that the research base in remedial education has been pointing to the viability of Corequisite Remediation for some time.

The first place to look when trying to understand the effectiveness of Corequisite Remediation is to examine the research on the reasons students fail in the traditional, prerequisite model. Tom Bailey’s groundbreaking research pointed to high attrition rates among remedial students as a result of long, remedial education course sequences. This indicated that many students were academically capable of college-level work, but simply could not endure multiple semesters of courses that did not count toward a degree.

Further insights came from the research of Judith Scott-Clayton, who found that upwards of 50% of students placed into remedial education could have passed college-level courses if given the opportunity. Bailey’s and Scott-Clayton’s research made it clear that many students who could pass college courses were being placed into a cumbersome system that actually constructed additional barriers to student success, rather than clearing them.

It stands to reason that simply removing the barriers of placement and long remedial sequences and placing students directly into college-level courses would immediately boost the number of students who completed college-level courses. Low and behold, the research found exactly that result.

Additional research by the Community College Research Center found that when the Virginia Community College System dramatically increased the number of students who enrolled directly into college-level courses, the number of students who completed college-level courses dramatically increased without significant declines in the overall success rates in those courses.  The study also suggested that providing corequisite support for students could have addressed the minimal drop in college-level course completion rates.

This work lays the foundation as to why Corequisite Remediation could work, but we have the added benefit of seeing Corequisite Remediation in action.  The research on the Accelerated Learning Program has found that corequisite support in English is highly effective.  Further, more recent research is finding that it is consistently effective at different institutional types and through various adaptations.   Research by Angela Boatman found that the Austin Peay corequisite model resulted in higher credit accumulation for students than modular prerequisite reforms.   Another study done at the City University of New York found that additional academic support in the college-level math course proved far more effective than the same level of support provided in a remedial course.   Finally, the recent study conducted by the Tennessee Board of Regents found that students, regardless of their score on the ACT, performed far better in a corequisite model than a traditional model.

This research, combined with the results emerging from our Alliance of States, is providing strong support for Corequisite Remediation, and all of us at CCA are excited to see it spread throughout the country.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Tuesday, June 23, 2015
The results are in. Corequisite remediation works.

This month, more than 200 faculty, administrators and system-level leaders from around the country came together in Minneapolis to take a deeper dive into corequisite remediation. In every presentation, the results showcased were nothing short of astounding.   Armed with incredible outcomes and evidence from around the country, there is no doubt: the time has come to leave behind the practice of stand alone, prerequisite remedial education and make the bold transition to providing intensive corequisite support to students while they are enrolled in college-level courses.

While CCA has held multiple convenings focused on the merits of corequisite remedation, this most recent event was the first ever where states showcased the results of scaling corequisite remediation to the vast majority of students in statewide higher education systems.

Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia presented data on their unique approaches to corequisite remediation.  And while each version of the reform differed slightly, the results were remarkably consistent.  Students enrolled in single-semester, corequisite English courses typically succeeded at twice the rate of students enrolled in traditional prerequisite English courses. Students enrolled in corequisite gateway math courses that were aligned with their chosen programs of study saw results at five to six times the success rates of traditional remedial math sequences.

Some key highlights from the day included:

  • A presentation by Dr. Tristan Denley from the Tennessee Board of Regents showed that regardless of ACT score, students enrolled in either single-semester corequisite English or corequisite math performed markedly better than students enrolled in prerequisite, modular-based remediation.  Students that scored as low as 13 on the ACT benefited more from corequisite models.
  • A session from Mary Ostrye and Kathryn Walz of Ivy Tech Community College showcased the remarkable results from their scaling of corequisite remediation at all 24 state campuses.
  • A presentation from Chancellor James Skidmore and Sarah Tucker from the West Virginia Community and Technical College Council highlighted results from their 9-month effort to scale corequisite remediation at all 9 community and technical college institutions in the state. The results were jaw-dropping, with some campuses showing success rates in gateway math courses increasing from 10% to up to 70%.


Faculty joined in the discussion, touting the incredible results associated with corequisite remediation.  Gwen Eldridge (Ivy Tech and President of the National Association of Developmental Education), Shawna Van (Front Range Community College) and Brandon Feres (Community College of Aurora) testified to the effectiveness of their corequsite English models.  In addition, Mike McComas (Mountwest Community College) described the results from his corequisite math model.

Most importantly, this national institute kicked off an 18-month effort to work with up to 16 additional states on the scaling of corequisite remediation.

A bright future is within our grasp, one where hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of students who would otherwise never make it out of remediation will pass gateway courses and enter programs of study.  We look forward to working with CCA Alliance states on this exciting and achievable goal.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Thursday, June 4, 2015
Building High-Quality Community Colleges: The Forgotten Piece

In a recent piece for the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews opines that President Obama’s proposal for free community college – while well intentioned – falls short in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing today’s students. In addition to concerns associated with tuition and fees, Matthews lays out living expenses, working while going to school, and a failed college structure as key barriers keeping students from graduation day.

Some key excerpts:

“Community colleges provide such a disorganized mess of courses with so many dead-ends that many students never get to where they want to go.” “…the push to provide as many courses for as many students as possible has backfired.” “Regular students blunder through on their own with mostly bad results. More than 80 percent of students entering community college say they plan to graduate from a four-year school. Six years later, just 15 percent have done so.”

While this is all true, a core part of the President’s proposal does, in fact, seek to address these concerns, calling for the “building [of] high-quality community colleges.” The proposal specifically states that, “colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes” – reforms like those in place at CUNY ASAP and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology where highly-structured programs and proactive advising ensure many more students earn their degree or certificate.

The attention and dialogue around the President’s proposal – especially this often omitted element of it – provide an important opportunity to help community colleges realize their full potential and address some inherent challenges in their systems and structures. This is where the Complete College America Game Changers come in. By providing remediation as a corequisite, not a prerequisite, alongside the college-level course, we can ensure significantly more students finish their gateway courses and move into their programs of study. GPS provides the backbone of highly-structured programs by creating default pathways, clear academic maps, and implementation of intrusive advising to help students find the most direct path to graduation. Structured schedules, which provide a reliable and consistent block schedule from the beginning of the degree to the end, make it easier for students to move through and complete on time, even as they balance work and school. Finally, encouraging full-time attendance of 15 credits per term or 30 credits per year ensures that students finish their programs in a timely fashion, without additional cost. We believe in the need for more investment in higher education to give students a better chance to enter and complete.

However, it is highly structured programs and transforming systems through the Game Changers that will help more community colleges become the high-quality institutions that students need and deserve, saving students valuable time and money. After all, it is far cheaper to earn your degree in 2 or 4 years rather than in 5 or 6.

posted by Julie Johnson


Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Corequisites and Closing Opportunity Gaps

In a recent piece in Inside HigherEd, John Squires of Chattanooga State Community College and Angela Boatman from Vanderbilt University chimed in on the remedial education reform debate.  They contend that reforms to remedial education must be focused first and foremost on decreasing the opportunity gap that exists between low-income students and higher-income students.  They call for more research and new models with that objective in mind.

Compete College America couldn’t agree more.  Our concern is that the current model of prerequisite remedial education actually decreases opportunity.  A recent analysis of the impact of Virginia’s new placement system on college-level math placements done by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) serves as case in point. In the paper, CCRC describes how Virginia redesigned its assessment system in order to determine placement into two gateway college-level math courses – a STEM math course and a Liberal Arts math course. The new system identified the skills students needed to be successful in each college-level course and developed an assessment to determine student preparation in those skills.   The result was dramatic increases in placement into both college-level gateway courses. Overall, placement into the college-level math increased from 11% to 43%.  More interesting was the placements increased for both the liberal arts math course and the STEM math course, with the most profound increase happening in STEM where placements into the college-level math course increased from  7% to 33%.

While the increase in college-level placements is impressive, the overall success rate of students in those college-level courses is the real story. The analysis found that for all students who were assessed, the new assessment strategy resulted in dramatic increases in the percent of students who completed gateway math courses in one academic year, from 7% to 29%. Once again, the most dramatic improvements were in STEM where completion of gateway STEM math in one academic year increased from 4% to 19%.

Keep in mind that in Virginia those students who were placed into gateway college-level courses did not receive any additional support in those courses. As a result course pass rates did go down slightly. But, the mere fact that when more students were given the opportunity to enroll in gateway courses, the overall number of students who passed those courses in one year increased. CCRC contends that success rates in gateway math courses could increase even further if the new placement strategy was combined with a strong corequisite support model.

Tom Bailey of CCRC has recently summed up the current debate on remedial education well in a piece for the American Association of Community Colleges where he wrote,

I am concerned that policymakers, as well as college leaders, administrators and faculty continue to view remediation as a separate and isolated activity, rather than as a process that can be leveraged to integrate students thoroughly into their college programs.

In the piece, Tom recommends a model focused on designing gateway college-level courses, with corequisite support that fulfill requirements within a broad meta-major students select upon enrollment at the institution.  With this approach, students are given a real opportunity to pursue their academic goals and achieve them.  Tom, we couldn’t agree more.

It is for this reason that CCA continues to promote large scale reforms to dramatically increase the percent of students who pass gateway courses and enter programs of study within one academic year by placing the vast majority of students into gateway college courses and providing them corequisite support.  To that end, CCA has released two new policy briefs on corequisite remediation and assessment and placement that make the case for systemic reforms that are about ending stand alone, prerequisite remedial education for nearly all students and focusing our efforts on ending the opportunity gap in higher education.

posted by Bruce Vandal


Monday, June 9, 2014
Betting on U of Nevada-Reno’s Gateway Math Strategy

Typically when someone visits Reno the odds they are concerned about have little to do with college success. But when I attended a meeting on remedial math reform hosted by the Nevada System of Higher Education and saw a presentation from Chris Herald, the Core Mathematics the Director from the University of Nevada Reno’s (UNR) math department, I was convinced that UNR’s math redesign is a sure bet for improving gateway course success.

UNR students who complete a gateway math course in their first academic year are about two times more likely to graduate or still be enrolled six years later than students who do not complete gateway math. 69% of students who complete gateway math in their first year graduate or remain enrolled six years later.   The results are remarkably similar for students who place into remedial math with 67% of students graduating or still enrolled six years later after completing gateway math their first year.

Those data are impressive, but not as impressive as recent data showing that about 80% of all students at UNR complete gateway math in one academic year. The one year success rate in gateway math at UNR is a full 35 percentage points higher than the Nevada college with the next highest success rate in gateway math courses.

What is UNR’s secret?  A wholesale commitment to getting all students enrolled in math as soon as they walk on campus.  95% of students at UNR take at least one math class (college-level or remedial) during their first year, compared to about 80% at other Nevada four-year institutions. Over 96% of students assessed below college ready in math enroll in math their first year.   There is no avoiding math during your first year at UNR.

Next, UNR places upwards of 36% of students who test below college ready into college-level or corequisite college-level courses. In addition, all other students below college ready only need to take one remedial course before enrolling in gateway courses.  This strategy has resulted in 62% of all students assessed below college ready completing college level math in one academic year.

A key to their success is that they have removed the Intermediate Algebra bottleneck, which causes high student failure rates.  At UNR there are two gateway math courses, College Algebra and Math and Stats for Liberal Arts. Traditionally students have been expected to pass out of or complete intermediate algebra before being allowed to enroll in either gateway, college-level course. Unfortunately only about 56% of students who enroll in intermediate algebra pass.  One of the reasons for the high failure rates is that only one-third of the content in Intermediate Algebra is relevant to the Math to Stats course. Most of the content in Intermediate Algebra is only relevant for students who intend to enroll in College Algebra.  With this new information in hand, UNR created two corequisite courses – one for Math and Stats for Liberal Arts that incorporates the necessary content from Intermediate Algebra into the gateway course and one for College Algebra that embeds intermediate algebra content within it.   As a result, the college has eliminated stand alone intermediate algebra.

The results have been nothing short of astounding.  94% of the students enrolled in corequisite Math and Stats for Liberal Arts and 90% of the students enrolled in corequisite College Algebra pass their course.

Nevada is one of 22 states that have made a commitment to dramatically increase the percent of students placed into remedial education who complete gateway courses in one academic year. It is no surprise that many in the state hope that UNR’s reforms will be the centerpiece of Nevada’s reform strategy.

Check out Chris Herald’s impressive powerpoint below.

posted by Bruce Vandal


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