Task Force Follow-up Study Details Patterns of Persistence


by Susan Tobia and Jane Grosset


As stated in the Developmental Education Task Force report, “the primary mission of developmental education at Community College of Philadelphia is to prepare students to succeed in our collegiate programs of study...” The indicators of success chosen by the task force to mark achievement of that mission are 1) successful completion of the developmental program or developmental courses, 2) successful completion of college-level courses and curricula, 3) transfers to 4-year colleges, and 4) successful employment. This study looks at the first two indicators of success.

Students evaluated were those who entered the College in the Fall 1994 semester and success indicators were measured as of the end of Spring 1996. The first column of numbers in Table 1 represents new Fall 1994 students who were placed into one of four developmental levels. The largest numbers of new students were placed into the CAP B (533) and ACT NOW (452) levels and fewest students placed into CAP C (8). ( It is not the usual case for students to enter CAP C directly; the majority of students move into CAP C from CAP B). As a point of reference, there were 2416 new students at the beginning of the same semester who were able to assume college-level course work at the outset of their studies and 194 students who entered as CLC students.

Completion of Developmental English Courses

The Developmental Education Task Force designated that an appropriate initial academic milestone for developmental students is the successful completion of developmental Englishcourses. The CAP A level requires the completion of four developmental English courses; CAP B requires two developmental English courses; and ACT NOW requires one. The third column in Table 1 contains the number and percentage of each developmental student group that successfully completed all required developmental English courses during the first two years of enrollment at the College. The level of success measured by this indicator varied across developmental programs ranging from 30.6% for CAP A to 100.0% for CAP C.

Table 2 provides a more detailed picture of the persistence patterns of developmental students by considering Spring 1996 semester enrollment status of both completers and noncompleters of developmental English requirements. Only 18.8% of the original CAP A cohort completed the four required developmental English courses and remained enrolled at the College by the end of the Spring 1996 term. Thirty-one percent of CAP B and 38.8% of ACT NOW students completed all required developmental English courses and remained enrolled.

Of the four possible persistence outcomes presented in Table 2, CAP A students were the most likely (54.5%) not to complete required courses and not to persist through spring 1996. The percentages of CAP B and ACT NOW students experiencing this outcome were considerably smaller, 33.0% and 22.6% respectively.

Completion of College-Level Courses

In order to better understand the academic progress made by students who enter the College needingdevelopmental support, the task force further designated that student academic performance in college-level courses should be part of an assessment of developmental education. The following courses were selected by the task force as indicators of the assimilation of students into college-level studies: English 101, Psychology 101, Biology 106, Management 121, and Data Processing 103. These courses were selected based on their expected frequency of enrollment and on their representation of major disciplines in the two divisions. Tables 3 through 7 contain ‘pass rates’, which were defined as grades of D or higher. The tables contain two sets of pass rates; one is based on developmental English course completers who subsequently enrolled in the courses whose outcomes are being measured and the other pass rate is based on developmental students who did not complete all of their required developmental English course work and subsequently enrolled in the courses whose outcomes are being measured. (See Table 3, Table 4, Table 5, Table 6, Table 7.) Analysis of pass rates across these two groups suggests the impact of developmental English courses on student academic achievement in benchmark college-level courses.

By the end of the Spring 1996 semester, fairly large numbers of students who successfully completed all of their required English developmental courses enrolled in English 101 (Table 3). Ninety-two (92) CAP A; 255 CAP B and 301 ACT NOW students enrolled in English 101. Pass rates based on CAP A, B and ACT NOW students who successfully completed all of theirrequired developmental English courses are comparable, ranging from 62.0% to 64.7%. CAP C student pass rates are not provided given there were so few students. By comparison, the pass rate for ‘college-ready’ students is 82.1%; and 81.5% for CLC students. Students across the levels who successfully completed their developmental English courses outperformed students who did not although this latter group represents small numbers.

The same general trends are true of the information that appears in Tables 4 through 7. (See Table 4, Table 5, Table 6, Table 7.) Pass rates in Psychology 101, Management 121, Biology 106, and Data Processing 103, which are based on students who successfully completed all required developmental English courses, are relatively homogeneous across developmental groupings. This group of Fall 1994 entrants did well in these college-level courses, in most cases achieving pass rates comparable to or, in some cases, surpassing those of CLC and college-ready entrants. Pass rates were highest for Management 121, Data Processing 103, Biology 106, and lowest for Psychology 101. It should be noted that percentages for the Biology and Management courses are based on small numbers of students. Using Biology 106 as an example, only four CAP A; six CAP B; and four ACT NOW students who passed all required developmental English courses took this course within two years of initial enrollment. Consequently, pass rates for these courses may be unreliable.

A different picture of academic progress emerges when the pass rates of students not completing their developmental English coursesare analyzed. Although few of these students enrolled in the benchmark college-level courses by the end of the Spring 1996 semester, the pass rates in these courses are considerably lower than those based on students who successfully completed all of their required developmental English courses.

In order to select a better sample of benchmark college-level courses for future assessments, the course taking behavior of developmental students was analyzed. The results of this analysis, which appear in Table 8, suggest that English 102 and Sociology 101 replace Management 121. Biology 106, formerly Biology 235, may still be a viable benchmark as this course has recently seen larger enrollments because of a restructuring of biology courses.

Conclusions

Is the developmental education mission to prepare students to succeed in our collegiate programs of study being achieved? The data tables in this report provide a snapshot of the academic progress of a recent group of developmental students over a two-year time period. The progress of the developmental English cohort will be tracked throughout their enrollment at the College and this longitudinal assessment is expected to provide a more in-depth and revealing picture of student achievement. Further, the addition of a new cohort each year will increase the breadth of the data base. As additional student cohorts are tracked, historic trend patterns will provide reference points to judge if recent developmental students are making greater or lesser academic progress than their predecessors. However, analysis over time will not determine if sufficient levels of success have been achieved by developmental students. In order to meaningfully evaluate developmental education at Community College of Philadelphia, the interpretation of statistics, such as those provided in this report, needs to occur within the broader context of academic excellence and institutional expectations for the academic progress of students. An important next step is the establishment of institutional benchmarks against which the academic progress of students, both developmental and otherwise, can be assessed. Without this focus, a meaningful assessment of mission effectiveness at the College is troublesome.

It has been suggested that another potential baseline against which the success of developmental education at Community College of Philadelphia can be judged is the success of developmental education elsewhere. Unfortunately, valid interinstitutional comparisons are frequently unavailable given the lack of a systematic definition of developmental education and the diversity of both student bodies and developmental programs across institutions.

Despite these limitations, the data contain a few interesting intra-institutional differences. Developmental English course requirements vary across developmental levels. CAP A students need to complete four English courses; CAP B students need to complete two; and ACT NOW students are required to take one developmental English course. The two-year data suggest a strong inverse relationship between level of prescribed developmental support and the successful completion of developmental courses; in other words, the greater the number of required developmental courses, the lower the likelihood of success. Over a longer span of time it is possible that the gap between rates of successful developmental English course completion achieved by CAP A and other developmental levels will shrink but it is unlikely that CAP A success rateswill ever be comparable to those of the other developmental levels given the high levels of long-term attrition associated with CAP A students. The difference between CAP B and ACT NOW students is smaller and it is possible that over time CAP B and ACT NOW success levels will become more comparable. The contrast in college-level course pass rates for students who complete and do not complete developmental course work consistently indicates the academic advantage associated with successful developmental course completion.

College-level course pass rates based on students who successfully complete all required developmental English course work are close to, and in some cases exceed, those of students who enter college-ready. It is also interesting to note that the level of success in the college-level courses (with the exception of Biology 106 and Management 121 because of especially low numbers) is highest for DP 103 followed by Psychology 101 and English 101. Exploring the requirements of these courses related to intellectual demands and classroom practices may yield useful insights into understanding our students in developmental education.

Another important data path to explore is the reasons for the high rates of attrition for Fall 1994 developmental students. Why are students dropping out and is there a critical point at which they do so? Why do students who successfully complete their developmental course work drop from the College? Such information may lead to targeted intervention strategies. For a better understanding of the progress of developmental students to graduation and their post-community college successes see IR Report #93 entitled, Beating the Odds: Reasons For At-Risk Student Success at Community College of Philadelphia.n


List of Articles
Return to Journal home page


Table 1: New Students in Fall 94 Placed in DE and Those Students Who Passed All Required DE Engl Courses by End of 2nd Year
Developmental Level New Students in Fall 94 Students Who Passed All Required DE Engl Courses by End Spr96
CAP A 382 17 (30.6%)
CAP B 533 309 (58.0%)
CAP C* 8 8 (100%)
ACT NOW 452 342 (75.7%)

* It is recognized that English 100, which is the reading course taken by CAP C students, is not a "pure" developmental course, but CAP C is a level of the developmental program.




Table 2: Persistence Outcomes for New Students Fall 94, Successful Completion of Required Developmental English Courses and Enrollment Through Spring 96
Developmental Level New Students Fall 94 Students Passing All DE Engl courses by Spr 96 and... Students Not Completing All Required DE Engl Courses by Spr 96 and...
Persisted Thru Spr 96 Did Not Persist Thru Spr 96 Persisted Thru Spr 96 Did Not Persist Thru Spr 96
CAP A 382 18.8% 11.8% 14.9% 54.5%
CAP B 533 31.0% 27.0% 9.0% 33.0%
ACT NOW 452 38.8% 36.8% 1.8% 22.6%



Table 3: Engl 101 Outcomes, End of Spr 96, for Students New in Fall 94, Placed in DE and Either Completed or Did Not Complete All Required DE English Courses
Developmental Level Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took Engl 101 Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Engl 101, Passed % Who Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Engl 101,Passed Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses & Took Engl 101 Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Engl 101, Passed % Not Passing Required DE Engl Courses, Took Engl 101, Passed
CAP A 92 57 62.0 15 8 53.3
CAP B 255 165 64.7 19 11 58.0
ACT NOW 301 190 63.1 5 3 60.0

% of CLC Students Who Took English 101 and Passed Was 81.5%

% of College-Ready Students Who Took English 101 and Passed Was 82.1%




Table 4: Psychology 101 Outcomes, End of Spring 96, for New Developmental Education Students Who Started in Fall 94 and Either Did or Did Not Complete All Required DE English Courses
Developmental Pregram Passed All Req'd DE Engl courses and Took Psyc 101 Passed All Req'd DE Engl courses,Took Psyc 101, & Passed % Who Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Psyc 101, Passed Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took Psyc 101 Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Psyc 101, & Passed % Who Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Psyc 101, & Passed
CAP A 43 28 65.1 18 10 55.6
CAP B 141 96 68.1 12 7 58.3
ACT NOW 233 180 77.3 32 12 37.5

% of CLC Students Who Took Psychology 101 and Passed Was 76.4%

% of College-Ready Students Who Took Psychology 101 and Passed Was 82.2%




Table 5: Mangement 121 Outcomes, End of Spring 96, for New DE Students Who Began Fall 94 and Either Did or Did Not Complete All Required Developmental English Courses
Developmental Program Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took Mngt 121 Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses,Took Mngt 121, and Passed % Who Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Mngt 121, and Passed Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took Mngt 121 Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Mngt 121, and Passed % Who Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Mngt 121, and Passed
CAP A 10 9 90.0 3 2 66.7
CAP A 21 18 85.7 5 3 60.0
ACT NOW 53 46 86.8 18 6 33.3

% of CLC Students Who Took Management 121 and Passed Was 77.8%

% of College-Ready Students Who Took Management 121 and Passed Was 80.2%




Table 6: Biology 106 Outcomes, End of Spring 96, for New DE Students Who Began Fall 94 and Either Did or Did Not Complete All Required Developmental English Courses
Developmental Program Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took Biol 106 Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses,Took Biol 106, and Passed % Who Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Biol 106, and Passed Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took Biol 106 Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Biol 106, and Passed % Who Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took Biol 106, and Passed
CAP A 4 4 100.0 2 0 00.0
CAP B 6 6 100.0 1 0 0.0
ACT NOW 6 4 100.0 0 0 0.0

% of CLC Students Who Took Biol 106 and Passed Was 85.7%

% of College-Ready Students Who Took Biol 106 and Passed Was 100%




Table 7: Data Processing 103 Outcomes, End of Spring 96, for New DE Students Who Began Fall 94 and Either Did or Did Not Complete All Required Developmental English Courses
Developmental Program Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took DP 103 Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses,Took DP 103, and Passed % Who Passed All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took DP 103, and Passed Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses and Took DP 103 Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took DP 103, and Passed % Who Did Not Pass All Req'd DE Engl Courses, Took DP 103, and Passed
CAP A 30 26 86.7 19 10 52.6
CAP A 87 78 89.7 21 13 61.9
ACT NOW 87 72 82.8 16 10 62.5

% of CLC Students Who Took DP 103 and Passed Was 76.5%

% of College-Ready Students Who Took DP 103 and Passed Was 80.5%




Table 8: Rankings of the Ten Most Frequently Taken College-Level Courses by New Fall 94 Students Who Were Placed Into Developmental Levels
Course CAP A CAP B CAP C ACT NOW
English 101 1 1 1
Psychology 101 2 2 2 2
Math 118 3 6 3 6
Office Admin 110 4 7 9
DP 103 5 5 7 5
English 102 6 3 4 4
Sociology 101 7 4 5 3
Med Rec Tech 105 10 8 10
Biology 109 9 9 8 7
Math 161 8 10
Chemistry 110 6
Accounting 101 8
Management 121 9
Economics 181 10

Last Updated: Monday, January 26, 1998