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ERIC Number: ED542019
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 154
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 71
A Study of the Effectiveness of Developmental Courses for Improving Success in College. ACT Research Report Series, 2013 (1)
Noble, Julie; Sawyer, Richard
ACT, Inc.
There is a growing view that students who enroll in developmental courses are less successful in completing their programs than non-developmental students. Nevertheless, even though developmental students as a group ultimately might not be as academically successful as non-developmental students, many of them might still derive benefit from taking developmental courses. In this paper we address the question, "Does taking developmental courses benefit students at "all", in the sense that they are more successful than they would have been if they had not taken developmental courses?" Data for the study consisted of ACT[R] Test and college outcomes data for over 118,000 students who first enrolled in one of 75 two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions. We compared the success of students who initially enrolled in six developmental courses in English, mathematics, or reading with those of students who initially enrolled in associated higher-level courses. We first estimated probabilities of success with respect to twelve outcome variables ranging from performance in the associated higher-level college course to Bachelor's degree completion in six years. The probabilities of success were conditioned on ACT Test score, enrollment status (full- or part-time), college type (two-year vs. four-year), and the grade received in the developmental course (if taken). We then compared the probabilities of success of students who did and did not take the developmental course, but who otherwise were similar. Like others, we found that the developmental students in this study were less successful as a group than the non-developmental students with respect to GPA/persistence over time and degree completion within a fixed time period. Further consideration of time to degree, however, showed that developmental students typically completed a Bachelor's degree in six years at a rate similar to or higher than that of non-developmental students in five years. Particular subgroups of developmental students, as characterized by their ACT Test scores, the grade they received in the developmental course, and their enrollment status benefited from taking the developmental course. In particular, students who received an A (or sometimes a B) grade in the developmental course appeared to benefit from taking it. Moreover, part-time students appeared to derive more benefit from taking developmental courses than full-time students did. The report concludes with a discussion about the practical implications of these findings and possible contributing factors to academic success, such as the quality of developmental instruction, the time needed to complete a degree, and the noncognitive characteristics of developmental students. Appended are: (1) Pooled Descriptive Results; (2) Hierarchical Logistic Regression Models for Predicting Success in College; (3) Differences in Estimated Probabilities of Success for All Students and by Developmental Course Grade; and (4) Estimated Probabilities of Success for Full- and Part-Time Students. (Contains 33 tables, 25 figures and 17 footnotes.) [This paper was prepared with assistance from Justine Radunzel.
ACT, Inc. 500 ACT Drive, P.O. Box 168, Iowa City, IA 52243-0168. Tel: 319-337-1270; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: ACT, Inc.
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: ACT Assessment