Effectiveness of Remedial Education

The question that rises is whether successful completion of a remedial course guarantees students' success in college. The literature provides limited evidence for the effectiveness of remedial courses on outcomes such as: persistence to graduation, quality of performance in subsequent courses, drop-out, and grade point average. Many researchers claim that very little research has been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of remedial or developmental education and that research concerning the effectiveness of remedial education programs has been sporadic, underfunded, and inconclusive and has serious methodological flaws. Recently, efforts have been made to use more rigorous research designs (e.g. regression discontinuity design) to evaluate remedial effectiveness and suggest that post-remediation classroom composition (e.g., concentrated underpreparedness) moderates developmental education effectiveness efforts.

One way of measuring the effectiveness of a developmental/remedial program is to investigate whether the enrolled students actually complete the remedial courses successfully. Several research studies have found that underprepared students who completed remedial coursework achieve greater academic success than underprepared students who did not complete remedial coursework or students who started college academically prepared. Such findings support McCabe's statement that successfully-remediated students perform well in standard college work.

Despite the claim that a number of rigorous studies using a regression discontinuity design have found underprepared students who score near placement test cut off scores and enroll in remedial education perform no better than similarly scoring students who place directly into college level courses, several studies have demonstrated developmental education programs provide benefit.

This may in part be due to the "leakage" that often occurs from the beginning of a developmental program to its end. Research from the Community College Research Center indicates that even students who successfully complete a developmental class often drop out of school before entering credit programs

Acceleration Programs in Developmental Education
This has led to Acceleration in Developmental Education with The Community College of Baltimore County and the California Completion Project perhaps the two leading proponents. These programs merge (in different ways) developmental classes with credit classes.

Success factors
Kozeracki (2002) distinguishes seven commonly cited elements that are associated with student success in developmental programs:

Orientation, assessment, and placement are mandatory for new students
Clearly specified goals and objectives are established for courses and programs
The adult learning theory is applied in the design and delivery of the courses
The courses are highly structured
The programs are centralized or highly coordinated
Counseling, tutoring, and supplemental instruction components are included
The social and emotional development of the students is taken into consideration
Other research suggests that "bridge" programs that integrate basic skills and remedial education with higher-level content or technical training can produce substantially better results than traditional remedial programs.