Legislation changing the way developmental courses are offered shows early signs of success

Victoria May

Two years ago, Texas lawmakers reconfigured the way colleges across the state offer remedial education. Now they are saying the changes are showing early signs of success.

Signed in June 2017, House Bill 2223 mandated that all incoming college students are eligible to enroll in entry-level freshman courses, regardless of their score on the Texas Success Initiative test, which determines the appropriate college coursework for incoming students. In addition, students who do not pass the TSI enroll in corequisites, or developmental classes to take simultaneously with their freshman-level courses. 

Previously, students would take placement tests, such as the TSI, to determine their readiness for college-level classes. If students passed the test, they were allowed to enroll in freshman-level classes. If not, students would have to pass remedial courses in order to take classes for college credit. 

The author of the legislation, Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, said Texas needed to find a solution that would help students that did not meet TSI standards for college readiness, allowing them to catch up with their peers in a way that would not hinder their academic careers.

“These students need advising, they need direction, and what we are doing now simply isn’t working,” Giddings said. “For too long, developmental education has been a well-intentioned but failed investment. Instead of guiding students to college readiness, it has too often served as a roadblock to success.”

Jeremy Martin, senior policy analyst for the Charles A. Dana Center, said before HB 2223, students could be assigned mulitple consecutive semesters of remedial work before they were allowed to enroll in any college-level classes.

“(The new legislation) has made a huge difference for students in two and four year institutions all across the state,” Martin said. “Remedial classes are so bad. They don’t count for any college level credit. They cost time. They cost money. They use financial aid.”

Although HB 2223 requires 75% of students who did meet college readiness standards to be enrolled in corequisite courses, the University enrolls 100% of these students in corequisite courses, said Hillary Procknow, director of the Texas Success Initiative. 

According to the Charles A. Dana Center website, a University STEM education program, research has proven that student success at college institutions has increased after placing students in corequisite courses instead of traditional remedial programs. 

Depending on the course and university, developmental courses may look like mandatory tutoring, a writing lab or an extra block of time allotted in a student’s schedule, Procknow said. UT reserves an estimated 10 to 15 seats in large lectures for developmental students so they can still take their required freshman courses.

“It makes more sense to support someone struggling with a particular concept or area while they’re actively being taught the material,” Procknow said. “(The new legislation) is intervention just in the nick of time. We started piloting (the current program) five years ago, well before it was required by the new legislation, and we have found that students who take our corequisites pass in higher rates, persist longer at the University and are less likely to drop out.”