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CONTACT: Shouping Hu, FSU College of Education
(850) 644-6721;

July 2014

New Law Spurs Innovation and Collaboration, But Doubts Remain Regarding Student Success

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— Florida’s community and state colleges are in the midst of sweeping changes in how educators advise, mentor and teach students who are in remedial, or developmental, education.

New survey results released by Florida State University researchers show that college administrators are uncertain that the changes will actually have a positive impact on students.

The drastic changes in developmental education are the result of a state law that took effect July 1, 2013. The law mandates that the 28 schools in the Florida College System — formerly known as the Florida Community College System — provide developmental education that is more tailored to the individual needs of students.

A research team led by Shouping Hu, a professor of higher education, and assistant professors David Tandberg and Toby Park, all from the College of Education, released two research reports from their work in the past six months.

The first report is based on a survey of college administrators at Florida College System institutions. The survey gathered information from the colleges regarding their understanding of the new law, the impact of the new law on their college, how they planned to implement the new law and other important areas.

Survey results confirmed that the new law required major changes to current developmental education curriculum. Colleges plan to make changes to advising, incorporate the use of technology, and re-assign faculty to new departments as a result of the reform.

The survey results revealed a fairly wide agreement that the reform reflects a spirit of innovation as well as increased inter-institutional collaboration in developing strategies, with 85 percent and 76 percent of the respondents agreeing on those two assessments. About 70 percent of the respondents say their campus will add more advisers.

“It is clear that colleges placed advising in the forefront of institutional plans and deemed it critical for the success of the reform,” Park said.

The majority of colleges, however, are skeptical as to whether the changes will result in increased student success. There are also concerns about students’ willingness to take recommended developmental courses.

In addition, some colleges feel constrained by the tight timeline for implementation and expect to struggle with resource allocation and “unknowns” of implementing new structures for developmental education.

The second report is based on a full review of the 28 implementation plans that colleges were required to submit to the Florida College System for review and approval. These plans required college leaders to examine and in some cases redesign and revise developmental education programs and academic pathways to align with requirements in the legislation.

The analysis of these plans revealed that by the fall of 2014, colleges plan to redesign instructional strategies, ramp up advising and provide more student support services.

The new law mandated the implementation of a variety of course structures and instructional strategies. Of these, colleges favored strategies that were customized to students’ needs and those that accelerated student progression, with all 28 colleges applying these course structures. “Mainstreaming” students with additional supports was also popular, but with great variation across the colleges. Focusing developmental institution on student general academic interests, or meta-majors, was the least favored among the colleges.

Although colleges propose unique plans for redesigning instruction, advising and increasing support services for students, there are many commonalities between the plans.

Hu’s team will continue to examine the extent to which colleges implement the developmental education reform and to evaluate the effects of the policy changes on student postsecondary success.

His research team includes graduate students Rhonda Collins, Amanda Nix, Dava Hankerson and Keith Richard.


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