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Reports from Policy Analysts

Big Changes in Developmental Education

Submitted On: Sunday, April 13, 2014

Analyst: Reynolds, Alison/University of Florida


In 2013, the Florida Senate passed a bill that has changed the face of developmental reading, writing, and math education in the state.  Students are no longer required to take a college placement test. The impetus of the state is to increase student direct access to college coursework and to cut the time it takes to complete a college degree. For the state university and college system in Florida, the bill will disrupt the first year of coursework and will shift resources away from the students who are identified as requiring instruction. The impact will be seen in first-year courses and beyond.

State Bill 1720 states that students who graduated from a Florida high school after 2003-2004 will be exempt from common placement testing and from required developmental education.  However, Senate Bill 1720 says, "Students whose test scores indicate the need for developmental education must be advised of options and may enroll in the developmental education options of their choice." In addition, students who graduated after 2008 and active military members cannot be required to take a developmental class. For adult students who need developmental education, college and universities have been required to submit developmental education plans that include “modularized instruction, compressed course structures, contextualized instruction and corequisite instruction or tutoring” (FLDOE, 2013 Annual Report). These plans will be implemented Fall 2014. The bill does not remove funding from colleges, and colleges are relying on advising to make sure students who need the developmental coursework are encouraged to take it.

The impact on universities and colleges is unknown at this time, but if the data from past placement tests and completion rates are used as a reference, student preparedness in college classes will be vastly different.  For example, “More than half of high school graduates who took the college placement test in the 2010-2011 school year found out they had to take at least one remedial course in college to boost basic skill. These students couldn’t pass at least one subject on the placement exam used to assess the abilities of incoming students” (O’Connor and Gonzales). Indeed, the same students may now elect to take first-year classes, classes that the tests would have previously identified as underprepared to pass. Instead of speeding students through degree completion, students may struggle with the materials and fail more classes. In addition, resources will be difficult for schools to manage. From staffing courses to preparing writing centers to work with a probable increase in student need, the repercussions of this initiative are both difficult to prepare for and truly unprecedented.



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