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NCPR Publications

Looking Beyond Enrollment: The Causal Effect of Need-Based Grants on College Access, Persistence, and Graduation (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Benjamin L. Castleman and Bridget Terry Long (December 2013).

This paper examines the effects of the need-based Florida Student Access Grant (FSAG) using a regression-discontinuity strategy and exploiting the cutoff used to determine eligibility. The authors find that FSAG eligibility had a positive impact on a range of outcomes, including enrollment at public four-year universities, persistence to the spring of freshman year, credit accumulation within the first four years, and bachelor's degree receipt within six years. These findings provide policymakers with valuable information about the long-term benefits of public investments in need-based financial assistance for college and suggest that investments in need-based grant aid generate substantial private and social monetary benefits. Download the PDF

The Common Core State Standards: Implications for Community Colleges and Student Preparedness for College (An NCPR Working Paper).
By: Elisabeth A. Barnett and Maggie P. Fay (February 2013).

Based on a review of literature and on interviews with individuals involved in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) nationally and in Washington State, Florida, and Kentucky, this NCPR paper outlines the development of the CCSS and the CCSS-aligned assessments, the involvement of higher education representatives in their design and implementation, and how the CCSS and the aligned assessments can be used to support the mission of community colleges. Download the PDF

New Evidence of Success for Community College Remedial English Students: Tracking the Outcomes of Students in the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) (A CCRC Working Paper).
By: Sung-Woo Cho, Elizabeth Kopko, Davis Jenkins, and Shanna Smith Jaggars (December 2012). 

This paper presents the findings from a follow-up quantitative analysis of the Community College of Baltimore County’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP). Results from the study, which was supported through NCPR funding, suggest that among students who enroll in the highest level developmental writing course, participation in ALP is associated with substantially better outcomes in terms of college-level English course completion, which corroborates the results of a similar analysis completed in 2010. Download the PDF

Preparing Students for College Learning and Work: Investigating the Capstone Course Component of Virginia's College and Career Readiness Initiative (An NCPR Working Paper).
By: Heather D. Wathington, Elisabeth A. Barnett, Maggie P. Fay, Claire Mitchell, Joshua Pretlow, and Rachel Hare Bork (December 2012).

Based on a set of performance expectations for college readiness, Virginia’s capstone courses in English and mathematics were developed to help support college-intending high school juniors and seniors who are at risk of placing into developmental education. The courses were piloted in more than 20 high schools across Virginia during the 2011–12 academic year. NCPR researchers investigated the design and implementation of the capstone courses, identifying issues that practitioners should consider as the capstone course initiative expands and implications for researchers investigating capstone courses. Download the PDF

The Effects of Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Education: A Synthesis of Findings from Six Community Colleges. By: Mary G. Visher, Michael J. Weiss, Evan Weissman, Timothy Rudd, and Heather D. Wathington, with Jedediah Teres and Kelley Fong (July 2012).

This is the final report of an impact study on one-semester learning communities and includes findings from analyses that pool data across five project programs as well as the results for developmental education students at a sixth program at Kingsborough Community College, operated earlier under MDRC’s Opening Doors demonstration. Across the six programs, almost 7,000 students were randomly assigned, about half into 174 learning communities, and tracked for three semesters. On average, the programs produced a modest impact on credits earned. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)

Bridging College and Careers: Using Dual Enrollment to Enhance Career and Technical Education Pathways (An NCPR Working Paper).
By: Olga Rodríguez, Katherine L. Hughes, and Clive Belfield (July 2012).

Using longitudinal administrative data, this study compares outcomes of students who in 2008–09 and 2009–10 enrolled in one or more dual enrollment courses through the Concurrent Courses Initiative (CCI) in California with those of similar students in the same school districts who did not participate in the initiative. Using regression models that control for student characteristics and other factors, the findings indicate that relative to comparison students, CCI dual enrollees had similar GPAs but higher graduation rates in high school. CCI dual enrollees entered college at similar rates to the comparison group, but entered four-year institutions and persisted in college at higher rates. Notably, CCI dual enrollees accumulated more college credits than the comparison group, and this difference in credit accumulation grew over time. Download the PDF

Bridging the Gap: An Impact Study of Eight Developmental Summer Bridge Programs in Texas.
By: Elisabeth A. Barnett, Rachel Hare Bork, Alexander K. Mayer, Joshua Pretlow, Heather D. Wathington, and Madeline Joy Weiss, with Evan Weissman, Jedediah Teres, and Matthew Zeidenberg (June 2012).
Developmental summer bridge programs provide accelerated and focused learning opportunities in order to help recent high school graduates acquire the knowledge and skills needed for college success. This report presents findings from an experimental study of eight developmental summer bridge programs offered in Texas during the summer of 2009. The programs had a positive impact on introductory college-level course completion in math and writing in the year and a half following the program, but these effects were not statistically significant at the end of two years. There is no evidence that the programs impacted persistence or the average number of credits students attempted or earned. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)
Evaluating Institutional Efforts to Streamline Postsecondary Remediation: The Causal Effects of the Tennessee Developmental Course Redesign Initiative on Early Student Academic Success (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Angela Boatman (June 2012).

This study employs a regression discontinuity research design to provide causal estimates of the effects on student outcomes of recently redesigned remedial courses at three Tennessee colleges. The findings indicate that, among students on the margins of the cutoff score, the effects of enrollment in developmental mathematics were positive and statistically significant on early student persistence as well as on the number of credits attempted but not completed in the first semester, but these effects did not persist over time. Students appear to have benefited from the redesigned courses at two of the three institutions. Download the PDF

Preparing High School Students for College: An Exploratory Study of College Readiness Partnership Programs in Texas. By: Elisabeth A. Barnett, William Corrin, Aki Nakanishi, Rachel Hare Bork, Claire Mitchell, and Susan Sepanik, with Heather D. Wathington, Joshua Pretlow, Beth Hustedt, Nikki Edgecombe, Alissa Gardenhire, and Nicole Clabaugh (May 2012).

College readiness partnership programs, co-sponsored by a college and a K-12 organization, are designed to prepare high school students for college-level work. This study examines 37 college readiness partnership programs in Texas and the partnerships that created them, drawing on information from relevant research and Texas policy literature; an online scan of college readiness partnership programs in Texas; and site visits to high schools, colleges, and community-based organizations in the Houston and Dallas–Fort Worth areas. The authors identify key characteristics of college readiness partnerships and programs as well as benefits and challenges associated with their implementation and sustainability. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental English: Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County.
By: Evan Weissman, Dan Cullinan, Oscar Cerna, Stephanie Safran, and Phoebe Richman, with Amanda Grossman (February 2012).

Two colleges implemented semester-long learning communities linking developmental English with a range of other courses. This report presents findings from impact studies at the colleges. At Merced, learning communities students earned more developmental English credits and passed more English courses than a control group. At the Community College of Baltimore County, there were no meaningful impacts on students’ credit attempts or progress. Neither college’s program had an impact on persistence or on cumulative credits earned. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)
 
High School Dual Enrollment Programs: Are We Fast-Tracking Students Too Fast? (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Cecilia Speroni (December 2011).

Despite the popularity of dual enrollment (DE) as a strategy for preparing high school students for college, little rigorous evidence exists on its effectiveness. This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to gauge the causal effect of DE on rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion among students who are on the margin of eligibility for DE participation. While DE courses in general are found to have no significant effects, participation in a DE algebra course is found to have significant positive effects on rates of college enrollment and completion. Download the PDF

Determinants of Students' Success: The Role of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment Programs (An NCPR Working Paper).
By: Cecilia Speroni (November 2011).

Using data from two cohorts of all high school students in Florida and controlling for schools' and students' characteristics (including prior achievement), this study examines the relative power of AP and DE in predicting students' college access and success. The study finds that both AP and DE are strongly associated with positive outcomes, but the enrollment outcomes are not the same for both programs. DE students are more likely than AP students to go to college after high school, but they are less likely to first enroll in a four-year college. Despite this difference in initial enrollment, the difference between DE and AP in terms of bachelor's degree attainment is much smaller and not statistically significant for some model specifications. In addition, the effect of DE is driven by courses taken at the local community college campus; there is no effect for DE courses taken at the high school. Download the PDF

Getting Ready for College: An Implementation and Early Impacts Study of Eight Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Programs. By: Heather D. Wathington, Elisabeth A. Barnett, Evan Weissman, Jedediah Teres, Joshua Pretlow, and Aki Nakanishi, with Matthew Zeidenberg, Madeline Joy Weiss, Alison Black, Claire Mitchell, and John Wachen (October 2011).

Developmental summer bridge programs—typically held in the summer between high school graduation and fall matriculation in college—involve intensive remedial instruction in math, reading, and/or writing and college preparation content for students entering college with low basic skills. This report presents the early findings of an evaluation of eight developmental summer bridge programs in Texas (seven at community colleges and one at an open-admissions four-year university). While program participation did not appear to increase college enrollment, there is evidence that program students were more likely to pass college-level courses in math and writing. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF) | Q&A

Breaking New Ground: An Impact Study of Career-Focused Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College.
By: Mary G. Visher and Jedediah Teres, with Phoebe Richman (July 2011).

The low completion rates of students in community colleges have been well documented. Among students who enroll in community colleges hoping to earn a credential or transfer to a four-year institution, only about half achieve this goal within six years. Many factors contribute to these low success rates, including lack of financial support, lack of motivation and direction, competing demands from family and jobs, and inadequate college-readiness skills. In an effort to address some of those barriers and to increase the number of students who achieve their education and career goals, community colleges are turning increasingly to learning communities—in which cohorts of students are co-enrolled in two or sometimes three courses that are linked by a common theme and are taught by a team of instructors who collaborate with each other around the syllabi and assignments. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)

Unlocking the Gate: What We Know About Improving Developmental Education.
By: Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow and Emily Schneider (June 2011).

One of the greatest challenges that community colleges face in their efforts to increase graduation rates is improving the success of students in their developmental, or remedial, education programs—the courses that students without adequate academic preparation must take before they can enroll in courses for college credit. Emphasizing results from experimental and quasi-experimental studies, this literature review identifies the most promising approaches for revising the structure, curriculum, or delivery of developmental education and suggests areas for future innovations in developmental education practice and research. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Math: Impact Studies at Queensborough and Houston Community Colleges.
By: Evan Weissman, Kristin F. Butcher, Emily Schneider, Jedediah Teres, Herbert Collado, and David Greenberg, with Rashida Welbeck (February 2011).

Learning communities, which co-enroll small groups of students into linked courses, are a popular strategy for helping developmental students at community colleges succeed. This report examines the impacts of one-semester learning communities for developmental math students at Queensborough Community College and Houston Community College. At both colleges, students in learning communities attempted and passed their developmental math class at higher rates than students in a control group. However, this impact generally did not translate into increased cumulative progress in math by the end of two or three semesters. Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)

Does Remediation Work for All Students? How the Effects of Postsecondary Remedial and Developmental Courses Vary by Level of Academic Preparation (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Angela Boatman and Bridget Terry Long (September 2010).

Using longitudinal data from Tennessee, this study estimates the effects of placement into varying levels of mathematics, reading, and writing courses for students attending public four- and two-year colleges and universities. This is possible due to the state's multi-tiered system, in which students could be assigned into one of four levels of mathematics and one of three levels of reading and writing courses. Using regression discontinuity (RD) techniques, the authors provide causal estimates of the effects of placement on a number of student outcomes, including persistence, degree completion, the number of total and college-level credits completed, and college GPA. The results suggest that remedial and developmental courses do differ in their impact by the level of student preparation. Similar to other research, the authors find negative effects for students on the margin of needing any remediation. However, at the other end of the academic ability spectrum, the negative effects of remediation were much smaller, and occasionally the effects were positive. These results suggest that remedial and developmental courses help or hinder students differently depending on their level of academic preparedness. Download the PDF

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Reading: An
Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College
. By: Michael J. Weiss, Mary G. Visher, and Heather Wathington with Jed Teres and Emily Schneider (June 2010).

This report presents results from a rigorous random assignment study of a basic learning community program at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Bay, Florida. Hillsborough is one of six community colleges participating in NCPR's Learning Communities Demonstration, whose goal is to determine whether learning communities are an effective strategy for helping students who need developmental education. Hillsborough's learning communities co-enrolled three cohorts of students (for a total of 1,071), in groups of around 20 students, into a developmental reading course and a "college success" course. Findings from this study show that overall, the learning communities program did not have a meaningful impact on students' academic success; however, the program became more comprehensive over time, and evidence suggests that it had positive impacts on the educational outcomes for the third cohort of students. DOWNLOAD: Full Report (PDF)* | Executive Summary (PDF)

*Note: A corrected version of this report was posted on August 5, 2010. As originally posted, in Table 2.2 on page 17 and in the text on page 18 there was an error in the reporting of the sample who were the first person in their family to attend college. These numbers should have read: 31.1 percent of the full sample, 29.6 percent of the program group, and 34.0 percent of the control group.

Scaling Up Learning Communities: The Experience of Six Community Colleges
. By: Mary Visher, Emily Schneider, Heather Wathington, and Herbert Collado (April 2010).

The Learning Communities Demonstration is a large-scale, random assignment evaluation of learning community programs at six community colleges being conducted by the National Center for Postsecondary Research and MDRC. During the first year of the demonstration, all six colleges expanded their learning community programs and, in the process, faced similar challenges in selecting courses to link, recruiting and supporting faculty, filling the learning communities with eligible students, and helping faculty use instructional strategies such as curricular integration to enhance learning. By spring 2009, the colleges operated more than 130 learning communities serving around 3,000 students. This report describes the strategies the colleges used to scale up their programs while working to improve their quality, and the many complex challenges that are likely to be faced by any community college intent on scaling up effective learning communities—including scheduling, faculty engagement with and approach to teaching, and balancing developmental courses with traditional college-level courses. DOWNLOAD:  Full Report (PDF) | Executive Summary (PDF)

The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results and Implications from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Eric P. Bettinger, Bridget Terry Long, Philip Oreopoulos, and Lisa Sanbonmatsu (September 2009).
 
Growing concerns about low awareness and take-up rates for government support programs like college financial aid have spurred calls to simplify the application process and enhance visibility. This project examines the effects of two experimental treatments designed to test of the importance of simplification and information using a random assignment research design. H&R Block tax professionals helped low- to moderate-income families complete the FAFSA, the federal application for financial aid. Families were then given an estimate of their eligibility for government aid as well as information about local postsecondary options. A second randomly-chosen group of individuals received only personalized aid eligibility information but did not receive help completing the FAFSA. Comparing the outcomes of participants in the treatment groups to a control group using multiple sources of administrative data, the analysis suggests that individuals who received assistance with the FAFSA and information about aid were substantially more likely to submit the aid application, enroll in college the following fall, and receive more financial aid. These results suggest that simplification and providing information could be effective ways to improve college access. However, only providing aid eligibility information without also giving assistance with the form had no significant effect on FAFSA submission rates. Download the PDF

Note: A revised version of a similar NBER Working Paper was released in June 2010.

The Learning Communities Demonstration:  Rationale, Sites, and Research Design (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Mary G. Visher, Heather Wathington, Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, and Emily Schneider with Oscar Cerna, Christine Sansone, and Michelle Ware  (May 2008).

Learning communities are a popular strategy that community colleges nationwide have embraced in support of developmental students. In a learning community, a cohort of students takes two or more courses linked by integrated themes and assignments that are developed through ongoing faculty collaboration. While the number of learning community programs continues to grow, rigorous studies measuring their effectiveness are limited. To address this need for evidence, the Learning Communities demonstration, launched in 2007, uses random assignment to test models of learning communities at six community colleges. This working paper describes the study's design, including a summary of the theoretical and empirical research relevant to learning communities, descriptions of the sites and their learning community models, the random assignment procedures, and plans for data analysis. Download the PDF

The Impact of Postsecondary Remediation Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach: Addressing Endogenous Sorting and Noncompliance (An NCPR Working Paper).
By: Juan Carlos Calcagno and Bridget Terry Long (April 2008).

This paper reports findings from a study that uses a detailed dataset and a regression discontinuity design to identify the causal effect of remediation on the educational outcomes of nearly 100,000 college students in Florida. The paper also discusses concerns about endogenous sorting around the policy cutoff, which poses a threat to the assumptions of the regression discontinuity model in multiple research contexts. Download the PDF

What Is Known About the Impact of Financial Aid? Implications for Policy (An NCPR Working Paper). By: Bridget Terry Long (April 2008).

Years of research support the notion that financial aid can influence students' postsecondary decisions, but questions remain about the best ways to design and implement such programs and policies. This paper serves as a discussion of the research literature on the effectiveness of financial aid with special attention to its implications for policy. As such, the goal of this paper is to address issues central to today's debates about how to improve college access and affordability while encouraging researchers to continue to advance the line of inquiry.  Download the PDF


Conference Papers

NCPR Working Papers from the NCPR 2010 Conference on Developmental Education are available through the conference website.


Journal Articles

How Does Money Help? Students’ View of a Monetary Incentive. By: Heather Wathington, Joshua Pretlow, and Claire Mitchell — Enrollment Management Journal: Student Access, Finance and Success in Higher Education, vol. 5, no. 4, pp 45–66.

The authors describe a study's findings that offered an opportunity to earn a conditional cash transfer (CCT) to underprepared students for their participation in a developmental summer bridge program. The findings, supplemented with descriptive statistics, suggest that CCTs may play a considerable role for some students, but perhaps a smaller or no role for others. Read the article (subscription and/or registration may be required).

The Role of Application Assistance and Information in College Decisions: Results the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment.
By: Eric P. Bettinger, Bridget Terry Long, Philip Oreopoulos, and Lisa Sanbonmatsu — Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 127, no. 3, pp. 1205-1242.

The authors present results from a randomized field experiment in which low-income individuals receiving tax preparation help were also offered immediate assistance and a streamlined process to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for themselves or their children. Read the article (subscription and/or registration may be required).

The Difference a Cohort Makes: Understanding Developmental Learning Communities in Community Colleges. By: Heather Wathington, Joshua Pretlow, and Claire Mitchell — Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 225-242.

In this article, the authors discuss how cohorts within learning communities act as mechanisms for increasing student interaction and interdependence and how this may enhance retention among academically underprepared students. Read the article (subscription and/or registration may be required).



Briefs

Bridging College and Careers: Using Dual Enrollment to Enhance Career and Technical Education Pathways. By: Olga Rodríguez, Katherine L. Hughes, and Clive Belfield (July 2012).

This Brief summarizes the main findings of an NCPR Working Paper that compares outcomes of students who in 2008–09 and 2009–10 enrolled in one or more dual enrollment courses through the Concurrent Courses Initiative in California with those of similar students in the same school districts who did not participate in the initiative. Download the PDF

Bridging the Gap: An Impact Study of Eight Developmental Summer Bridge Programs in Texas. By: Elisabeth A. Barnett, Rachel Hare Bork, Alexander K. Mayer, Joshua Pretlow, Heather D. Wathington, and Madeline Joy Weiss, with Evan Weissman, Jedediah Teres, and Matthew Zeidenberg (July 2012).

This Brief summarizes findings from an experimental study of eight developmental summer bridge programs offered in Texas during the summer of 2009. Download the PDF

Preparing High School Students for College: An Exploratory Study of College Readiness Partnership Programs in Texas. By: Elisabeth A. Barnett, William Corrin, Aki Nakanishi, Rachel Hare Bork, Claire Mitchell, and Susan Sepanik, with Heather D. Wathington, Joshua Pretlow, Beth Hustedt, Nikki Edgecombe, Alissa Gardenhire, and Nicole Clabaugh (July 2012).

This Brief examines 37 college readiness partnership programs in Texas and the partnerships that created them, identifying key characteristics of the partnerships and benefits and challenges associated with program implementation. Download the PDF

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental English: Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County. By: Evan Weissman, Dan Cullinan, Oscar Cerna, Stephanie Safran, and Pheobe Richman with Amanda Grossman (April 2012).

This Brief summarizes key findings from an impact study of the learning communities programs in place at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County. Download the PDF.

High School Dual Enrollment Programs: Are We Fast-Tracking Students Too Fast? By: Cecilia Speroni (January 2012).

This Brief summarizes a study that used a regression discontinuity design to gauge the causal effect of dual enrollment on rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion among students on the margin of eligibility for DE participation. Download the PDF.

Breaking New Ground: An Impact Study of Career-Focused Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College.
By: Mary G. Visher and Jedediah Teres, with Phoebe Richman (November 2011).

This Brief summarizes key findings from an evaluation of Kingsborough's "Career-Focused Learning Communities" program. Download the PDF.

Getting Ready for College: An Implementation and Early Impacts Study of Eight Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Programs. By: Heather D. Wathington, Elisabeth A. Barnett, Evan Weissman, Jedediah Teres, Joshua Pretlow, and Aki Nakanishi, with Matthew Zeidenberg, Madeline Joy Weiss, Alison Black, Claire Mitchell, and John Wachen (November 2011).

This Brief summarizes the early findings of an evaluation of eight developmental summer bridge programs in Texas. Download the PDF.

Does Remediation Work for
All Students? How the Effects of Postsecondary Remedial and Developmental Courses Vary by Level of Academic Preparation (An NCPR Brief). By: Angela Boatman and Bridget Terry Long (August 2011).

This Brief summarizes a study that addresses the impact of remedial and developmental courses on students with a range of levels of preparedness. Download the PDF.

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Math: Impact Studies at Queensborough and Houston Community Colleges (An NCPR Brief). By: Evan Weissman, Kristin F. Butcher, Emily Schneider, Jedediah Teres, Herbert Collado, David Greenberg, with Rashida Welbeck (May 2011).

This Brief, based on a report of the same title, presents results from an examination of the impact of one-semester developmental math learning communities at Queensborough Community College in New York and Houston Community College in Texas. Download the PDF.

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Reading: An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College (An NCPR Brief). By: Michael J. Weiss, Mary G. Visher, and Heather Wathington with Jed Teres and Emily Schneider (August 2010).

This Brief, based on a report of the same title, presents results from a random assignment study of a basic learning communities program operated at Hillsborough Community College. Download the PDF.

Evaluating the Impact of Remedial Education in Florida Community Colleges: A Quasi-Experimental Regression Discontinuity Design (An NCPR Brief).
By: Juan Carlos Calcagno and Bridget Terry Long (August 2009).

This Brief summarizes findings from a quasi-experimental study examining remedial enrollment and outcomes of community college students throughout the state of Florida (see NCPR Working Paper: The Impact of Postsecondary Remediation Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach: Addressing Endogenous Sorting and Noncompliance). It also places the study in the context of related research and discusses its policy implications. Download the PDF.

Examining the Role of Summer Bridge Programs in Promoting College Readiness and Completion: Lessons Learned from Texas' Developmental Summer Bridges
(AYPF Forum Brief). By: American Youth Policy Forum (December 2010).

This AYPF Forum Brief describes presentations made by NCPR researchers and Texas partners at a December 2010 AYPF Forum in Washington, DC. Download the PDF.