The Department of Higher Education (DHE) in partnership with institutions of public higher education are working together to transform developmental education and have adopted a three-pronged approach to reduce remediation and increase student success: (1) Implementation of mathematics pathways; (2) Support through the co-requisite model; (3) Use of multiple measures.
Chief of Staff
Assistant Commissioner for Academic Policy and Student Success
2010 – Present
One of the most pressing issues that affects both college retention and graduation rates—particularly for traditionally underserved students—is the significant number of students who are required to enroll in developmental education courses despite the fact that they have successfully met all high school graduation requirements. For almost a decade, the Department and public higher education institutions have evolved their approach to developmental education in order to ensure equitable outcomes for all students. Moving this important work forward and using an equity lens to identify and remove systemic barriers will ensure all students, especially African American and Latinx students, have a stronger chance at earning a postsecondary credential.
African American and Latino students in Massachusetts require developmental education coursework at a considerably higher rate (20 percentage point differential) than white students—this gap is a reflection of the disadvantaged educational background of students that attend relatively underfunded and underperforming schools.
Developmental education courses also cost students money and are non-credit-bearing. They stand in the way of students moving into credit-bearing college courses, and our research shows that students who enroll in developmental courses are significantly less likely to graduate on a timely basis. Massachusetts is dedicated to transforming developmental education and creating restructured pathways so that students can enter into credit-bearing courses faster and so that we can increase the number of students participating and succeeding in college.
We can no longer afford to inaccurately assess college readiness and place students into the traditional developmental education sequence. Our system of public higher is at a critical juncture where our institutions must shift the focus from college-ready students to becoming student-ready colleges and universities. We must better equip ourselves to support today’s students once they enroll in our postsecondary institutions. The onus is on us to ensure students who enter our institutions leave with a postsecondary credential.
The 2019 Common Assessment Policy (CAP) marked a major milestone in developmental education reform in Massachusetts by replacing a 21-year old policy that mandated the use of a single assessment tool, Accuplacer. The 2019 CAP recommends institutions use multiple measures – including high school GPA – to make placement decisions, adopt multiple mathematics pathways, and implement co-requisite support. The policy also establishes statewide goals to increase the number of students completing gateway-level English and mathematics courses during the first year of enrollment. Institutional progress towards statewide goals will be tracked under the new Performance Measurement Reporting System (PMRS).
After years of closely following national research and monitoring results of local institutional pilots, the DHE is advising institutions of higher education to use high school GPA to assess college-readiness and place students into credit-bearing English and mathematics courses. There is little evidence to support the continued use of a high-stakes standardized exam for assessment and placement. Studies show how placing a student into a developmental course serves as an act of academic invalidation and can ultimately lead to these students stopping out. Research also suggests the use of high school GPA as part of a multiple measures approach to course assignment improves the accuracy of the placement process and better facilitates student progression into and through college-level coursework.
Additionally, there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of traditional remediation. In order to meet statewide goals, institutions will need to adopt the co-requisite model and implement multiple mathematics pathways. The co-requisite model allows students who would benefit from additional support to receive just-in-time remediation while receiving academic validation by being placed directly into a college-level course. Additionally, implementation of multiple mathematics pathways will ensure students complete the appropriate mathematics course for their major.
In response to a October 2013 report from the Task Force on Transforming Developmental Math Education, the Board of Higher Education approved a series of pilot initiatives aimed at helping students advance more quickly to credit-bearing courses while obtaining the skills needed for college-level work. The Board voted to:
In January 2016, the Board voted to extend the period of experimentation of the developmental math campus GPA pilots through the 2018-2019 academic year. During this period, public higher education institutions may use the placement standards listed below for recent high school graduates (a student who has graduated from high school within the last three years):
The Board also accepted the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI) Final Report, A Qualitative Study on the Developmental Education Strategies in Mathematics Pilot Initiative.
Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago charged the Math Pathways Subcommittee of the Task Force on Transforming Developmental Math Education with exploring the benefits and implications of multiple math pathways and with developing recommendations for increasing success in mathematics that will:
The Math Pathways Subcommittee of the Task Force on Transforming Developmental Math Education built upon the work that began during the MassTransfer Pathways process, when mathematics faculty from all 28 undergraduate-serving institutions came together to build a statewide transfer pathway in Mathematics. The DHE partnered with the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin and joined other states that were committed to bringing multiple math pathways to scale under the Dana Center’s Mathematics Pathways to Completion project. By partnering with the Dana Center, Massachusetts has also adopted the four principles2 of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Model (DCMP).
The Math Pathways Subcommittee presented a series of recommendations (below) and the final report was accepted by the Board in January 2018.
Held on September 16, 2018, this summit was designed to bring Massachusetts public institutions of higher education and high schools together to launch a plan to collaborative design vertically aligned mathematics pathways to support student success.
This workshop was intended help faculty and advising staff address the challenges of implementing math pathways at their institutions. The overall outcome of the workshop was for campus teams to create an action plan to ensure all students are well served by the institution’s mathematics pathways. The workshop was designed to promote discussion and learning within and across teams on a number of topics, including collaboration between mathematics and advising departments, approaches and techniques associated with advising for mathematics pathways, and how to communicate mathematics pathways information.
Outcomes: By the end of the Workshop, participants would...
Over the past several years, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) has been focused on increasing the number of students who enter and succeed in college-level English and mathematics courses. There are several initiatives underway to help advance these efforts, and we have adopted a three-pronged approach to reduce remediation and increase student success:
This Institute sought to bring partners from public higher education institutions together to discuss adopting the co-requisite model at scale.
This workshop supported college and university teams to begin and/or deepen work to develop and implement math pathways aligned with the recommendations from the Massachusetts Math Pathways Subcommittee. Through this interactive workshop, teams explored key steps in math pathways implementation, create short-term actions plans and learn about free resources available to support institutional work.
The Department of Higher Education, in partnership with the Guided Pathways to Success in STEM TAACCCT Round IV Statewide Office, organized a statewide conference and invited campus administrators and math faculty. The conference highlight promising practices around alternative math pathways, acceleration, alternative placement measures, co-requisite math courses, and other models developed to support our students.
Complete College America
Massachusetts Association of Community College
The University of Texas at Austin – Charles A. Dana Center