Common Elements of Developmental Education Policies

This policy brief identifies common elements of developmental education policies at the system and state levels: college readiness assessments, assessment cut scores, multiple measures for course placement, innovative course models and reporting systems.

Erin Whinnery
Sarah Pompelia
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Education Commission of the States
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Target Audience

For many students, developmental education is the largest obstacle to college success, hindering progress before they ever enroll in a college-level course. Research shows that less than 10 percent of students placed in developmental education at community colleges complete their degree within three years, and only 35 percent of four-year college students in developmental education go on to graduate within six years. These outcomes can leave students with mounting educational debt and no degree to show for their work.

As a result, postsecondary practitioners and researchers have been re-examining and challenging many traditional elements of developmental education from placement strategies to the sequence of courses that students must take. Policymakers are taking note of the research and considering new policies at the institutional, system, and state levels.

This policy brief aims to help state policymakers and postsecondary leaders learn about policies that shape developmental education and how changes become codified. The policy examples reviewed demonstrate how states and postsecondary systems guide student assessment and placement into either college-level courses or developmental courses, encourage best practices with new instructional methods and establish accountability. Across the states, these policies address:

  • College readiness assessments
  • Assessment cut scores
  • Multiple measures for course placement
  • Innovative course models
  • Reporting requirements
What the experts say

This policy brief identifies common elements of developmental education policies at the state and systems levels. It is a well-structured, easy to understand view of important elements, poses useful questions for educators to consider, and provides a cross section of approaches from fifteen other states on how they are dealing with the same issues. The brief is a functional and practical resource for those adult educators currently involved or planning to be involved in developmental education.

The authors deserve credit for a concise, well-organized, and clearly-written article. Together with its embedded links, the article provides useful information and questions to help teachers and administrators evaluate and revise practice in the areas of assessment, placement, and course offerings. It also offers ABE and ASE teachers a quick overview of new developments in community college education that are relevant to them and their learners.

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