CCA’s Vanessa Keadle interviews Casey Sacks, formerly of the Colorado Community College System, to discuss Corequisite Support in Colorado.

Casey, you are currently Vice Chancellor of the West Virginia Community at Technical College System, so why is your interview about Colorado?

At the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), I chaired our Developmental Education Taskforce to redesign developmental English, reading, and math statewide. The responses to these questions are about that work in Colorado. However, a year ago I left Colorado for the West Virginia System where I am very engaged with our colleges finding ways to improve on the incredible work the faculty have done here around corequisite instruction for developmental education.

What was the impetus for the change in Colorado?

After the Board, system leadership, and Governor’s office examined our student success data, Colorado convened a developmental education task force. We saw that something needed to change related to developmental education.

What models are being used?

The faculty on the Developmental Education Taskforce combined the disciplines of English and Reading. In the new College Composition and Reading discipline, most students are in a corequisite experience with a college English course. In math, faculty focused on math pathways in career math, quantitative reasoning, statistics, and algebra with co-requisite experiences; these courses are available to students who were close to the cut score in each class. Corequisite support increased access, while at the same time, collapsed a traditional four course developmental math sequence.

What are the results?

In College Composition and Reading, students in corequisite courses successfully completed college English at 95% in AY15 compared to 34% for comparable students before the redesign. In math, students in co-requisite algebra (82%), statistics and quantitative reasoning (90%), and career math (78%) all passed at much higher rates than similar students before the redesign (30%) and even for students who had the most significant developmental challenges, 11% passed a college level math class after a year following the redesign compared to only 3% of a similar population before the redesign.

Any lingering challenges?

When I see what West Virginia and Tennessee did with corequisite math instruction, it is clear to me that many more students should have access to those courses in Colorado. The cut score is not the best indicator for student success in a course. But when we pioneered the work in Colorado we didn’t know to take that risk. Once the redesign happened, people didn’t have the appetite to change things quickly. They wanted to leave the new design in place and wait to see what happened. We should work to update a redesigned practice when new information is available that demonstrates increased success.

Any big lessons learned?

Having faculty drive the outcomes from the task force was essential to implementation. The colleges that did the best job and implemented the redesign with the greatest fidelity had the best communication from their task force members to the members of the college community. They also had committed leadership who learned what was changing and created administrative structures at the college to support the changes that were recommended from the faculty group.