This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Math Developmental Education Practices in the Alabama Community College System: Fall 2012 to Summer 2022




Birchfield, Kelly

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


In the United States, students often graduate from high school unprepared to succeed in college. In Alabama, fewer than 25% of high school graduates are college ready. Frequently, unprepared students enroll in community colleges, which are tasked to help them transfer to a four-year institution or to enter the workforce. However, students who need math developmental coursework are less likely to take and complete college level coursework, to graduate or transfer, or to gain good employment. Many community colleges offer interventions to help unprepared students. They made placement decisions and structured developmental course sequences to maximize the likelihood that students would quickly complete the course of remediation. They also provided interventions such as tutoring, learning communities, and adaptive software. Previous research found that interventions had some positive effect on student success. The goal of this study was to determine what interventions have been tried at 21 Alabama community colleges and learn the impact on student success related to passage of the first developmental math course, the likelihood that a college level math course would be taken within two years, and passage of that subsequent college level course. Mostly, the results did not support previous research. The only intervention that was found to help students succeed at developmental math was mandatory tutoring. Using non-cognitive factors to aid in student placement had mixed effects with some students achieving higher pass rates in developmental courses and some students achieving lower pass rates. Streamlining students into shorter developmental sequences did not contribute to the likelihood that students would take a college level math course. No other intervention was linked to an increased likelihood that students would take a college level math course or pass a college level math course.