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Accelerating to Success: The Impact of Florida’s Developmental Education Reform on Credit Accumulation

by Christine G. Mokher, Toby J. Park-Gaghan & Shouping Hu - 2020

Background/Context: Underprepared students at community colleges are often assigned to a sequence of developmental education courses that can substantially delay, or even halt, their progress to degree completion. In 2014, Florida implemented a comprehensive reform under Senate Bill (SB) 1720 that allowed the majority of incoming students to enroll directly into college-level courses, while remaining developmental education courses were offered in new instructional modalities that were designed to be completed more quickly than traditional semester-long courses. Colleges provided extensive advising and academic support services intended to help students succeed while progressing at a more accelerated pace.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: In this study, we examined the impact of Florida’s developmental education reform on early momentum. More specifically, we defined early momentum as student success in early outcomes (such as the number of credits attempted and earned), which may set students on a promising long-term trajectory on subsequent postsecondary outcomes.

Population/Participants/Subjects: Our sample included all first-time-in-college students enrolled in all 28 public state colleges. We included three cohorts of students before the reform and up to three cohorts of students after the reform. Each cohort consisted of approximately 70,000 students.

Research Design: We used an interrupted time series design to compare student outcomes three years before the reform with those up to three years after the reform. Our outcome variables, measured one and three years following initial college enrollment, represented continuous indicators for the number of college-level credits attempted and the number of college-level credits earned. We also examined whether the data revealed heterogeneity in the reform’s impacts by race/ethnicity, family income status, and level of high school academic preparation.

Findings/Results: We found small positive effects on all outcomes, indicating that the reform accelerated student success in both the short term and longer term. The impacts of the reform were even greater for Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, low-income, and underprepared students (particularly in the first year), thus reducing existing achievement gaps.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Florida’s SB 1720 consisted of a complementary set of reform efforts that may together have a larger impact than any single component alone. The results suggest that initial momentum gains in the first year may have set some students on a more successful long-term trajectory, particularly those most likely to be assigned to developmental education before the reform. Colleges should continue to provide comprehensive student support services to help students succeed while progressing at a more accelerated pace.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 12, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23512, Date Accessed: 2/26/2021 5:26:41 AM

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About the Author
  • Christine G. Mokher
    Florida State University
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTINE G. MOKHER, Ph.D., is an associate professor of higher education in Florida State University’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, where she is also a senior research associate with the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS). Her research examines state and local policies focused on college- and career-readiness and success, with a particular emphasis on student transitions from secondary to postsecondary education.
  • Toby J. Park-Gaghan
    Center for Postsecondary Success
    E-mail Author
    TOBY J. PARK-GAGHAN, Ph.D., is an associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) and an associate professor of education policy at Florida State University. His primary research uses quasi-experimental methods and large statewide data sets to investigate student outcomes in postsecondary education and explore potential policy initiatives that could improve student success.
  • Shouping Hu
    Center for Postsecondary Success
    E-mail Author
    SHOUPING HU, Ph.D., is the Louis W. and Elizabeth N. Bender Endowed Professor of Higher Education and the founding director of the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) at Florida State University. Dr. Hu’s research interests examine issues related to postsecondary readiness, outcomes, and success. He currently serves as the principal investigator of a research project evaluating Florida’s developmental education reform funded by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.
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