Recommendation 2 – College Readiness

Dramatically improve college readiness

Dramatically improve college readiness: By 2020, reduce by half the numbers of students entering college unprepared for rigorous college-level work, and double the number of students who complete developmental education programs and progress to successful completion of related freshman-level courses.

A preponderant majority of community college students arrive at their college underprepared to succeed in college-level work. Finding ways to address this challenge far more effectively is essential if colleges are going to make progress in raising the numbers and rates of students completing college credentials.

A. Reducing the number of underprepared students entering college

How Can Colleges Do This Work?

Advice to colleges focuses on four actions:

  • Define and measure college readiness. Use clear metrics and appropriate assessments to define college readiness, establish baseline data, and longitudinally track progress toward improved student outcomes.
  • Establish and support community partnerships. Actively engage in collaborative work, such as pre-K through postsecondary and workforce (P–20W) consortia and other multisystem partnerships.
  • Participate in implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or their equivalent in non-CCSS states. Communicate with all involved stakeholders to ensure they are aware of the CCSS, the status of implementation, the cost to high school students and their families if students are not ready for college when they graduate, and the need to align career and college readiness skills. Partner with K–12 institutions to advocate for CCSS professional development.
  • Collaborate with K–12 partners. Focus work in the ten areas of engagement described at right.

B. Doubling the number of students who complete developmental education programs and college-entry-level courses

How Can Colleges Do This Work?

Advice to colleges focuses on four areas of effective practice:

  • Strengthen precollegiate readiness and success. This includes a set of actions that require close collaboration with K–12 systems, as described on page 15. Whether students come directly from high school or through other life experiences, community colleges then can propel students toward college readiness through summer bridge programs and/or intensive skill refreshers. Also promising are models integrating basic skills acquisition and workforce training, offered through partnerships involving colleges, workforce agencies, and service providers.
  • Provide college transitions support. Key elements include mandatory and integrated placement test preparation, orientation, and advising; use of multiple measures (including high school transcripts and diagnostics) to inform mandatory placement; and elimination of late registration. Having students develop educational plans is essential, and as institutions design academic and career pathways, students should enroll in a defined program of study early in their college experience. Case management and intrusive advising ensure that students stay on track, as do high-tech/high-touch support services. Technologies and social media can support advising, registration, and academic alerts, while promoting interaction among students and with their instructors and advisors.
  • Redesign developmental education. Community colleges have access to an increasing body of evidence about effective practice. Now colleges need to integrate more of these practices, at scale, into accelerated developmental pathways for all students who need them. Among the promising instructional models are combined/integrated courses, fast-track/flex courses, emporia, modularized curricula, and open entry/open exit approaches. All of these are enhanced by a student’s continuous enrollment through completion of the developmental learning sequence. Learning communities, done well, can be highly effective. Embedded academic and student supports are essential and may include co-requisite courses, supplemental instruction, and/or mandatory tutoring, along with intrusive advising. Also critical is integration of student success strategies—study skills, time management, tenacity, use of support services, financial literacy, and so on. Effective instructional approaches will emphasize engaged learning, integration of basic skills with academic or occupational content, and concrete applications of learning to work and life. Technology-enriched approaches include coordinated use of the Khan Academy, flipped classrooms, and emporium models with embedded support.
  • Build the foundations for gateway course success. Ultimately, the indicator of college readiness—and of effective developmental education—is successful completion of related college-level courses. Advisors can use multiple indicators of readiness (placement diagnostics, high school grades, etc.) to place students assessed at higher developmental levels into college-level courses with integrated co-requisites designed to provide additional support. Math pathways also show promise, because they integrate support while guiding student progress from developmental math to completion. Technology-enabled supports (e.g., video) and structured time on task, including supplemental instruction, have proven valuable.