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Students Assessed as Needing Developmental (Remedial) Algebra Are More Likely to Graduate If They Take College-Level Statistics Instead

Thu, November 9, 2:15 to 3:30pm, Marriott Marquis Houston, Third, Briargrove B

Abstract

Developmental (remedial) mathematics is the single largest academic block to students graduating from college. Further, students from underrepresented groups are more likely to be assigned to remediation (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006). However, the placement mechanisms used to assign students to remediation make many errors (e.g., approximately 25% of students assigned to remedial mathematics would receive a grade of at least B if allowed to take a college-level mathematics course instead; Scott-Clayton, 2014). Of the students assigned to remedial mathematics, most either do not take it or do not pass it (Bailey, Jeong, & Cho, 2010), and so they cannot take some required college-level courses and cannot graduate. Recent research reviews have confirmed that traditional remedial mathematics hinders, not helps, college student success (Bailey & Jaggars, 2016; Valentine, Konstantopoulos, & Goldrick-Rab, 2016), and that many of the reasons for not passing relate to students’ motivation, not ability. In contrast, streamlining remedial and introductory mathematics course sequences and aligning required quantitative course material with what students will actually use in their other college courses or in their lives have been shown to significantly increase student success. A recent randomized controlled trial showed that students assessed as needing remedial elementary algebra who were instead randomly assigned to college-level, credit-bearing, introductory statistics with a weekly workshop were significantly more likely to pass that course (56%) than comparable students randomly assigned to traditional remedial mathematics (39%), and there were no interaction effects with race/ethnicity. We report new follow-up data demonstrating that, 2.5 years after the experiment, a significantly greater percentage (17%) of students randomly assigned to statistics have graduated compared to students randomly assigned to traditional remedial mathematics (9%), and there are no significant interactions with race/ethnicity. Thus, many students assessed as needing remedial mathematics do not need to pass remediation in order to pass statistics and other natural and social science general education courses. Our intervention, a version of what has been termed corequisite remediation or supplemental instruction, can help increase student success and close racial/ethnic performance gaps, including gaps in graduation rates.

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