Colleges have implemented a wide range of developmental education reforms to help students pass gateway math courses in their first year—a key indicator of persistence and completion. Those that have proven effective include adopting co-requisite courses, transforming math instruction, reforming course placement strategies, aligning math courses with career pathways and providing wraparound support.

Yet despite the demonstrated effectiveness of these initiatives, some students arrive on campus too far behind in math to benefit from those reforms, and are still not being served well by developmental education efforts. We want to learn who these students are, how many of them are being left behind and what obstacles are standing in the way of their success.


To find out which students are not well-served by the existing reforms, we enlisted the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to help leaders in the field develop a research agenda. NAS is a well-regarded group of researchers with a long history of advancing science, solving complex problems and informing public policy decisions.

In March 2019, NAS assembled a committee of experts in developmental mathematics as well as equity and inclusion for a workshop at which a broad group of stakeholders discussed strategies for better serving students being left behind by developmental math reforms. NAS has published a book summarizing the event.

Increasing Student Success in Developmental Mathematics: Proceedings of a Workshop outlines a number of possible areas for future research and next steps to sustain momentum over the next five years. Proposed research topics include developmental math student outcomes disaggregated by race/ethnicity and ability; racism, sexism and ableism in math education; student experiences in developmental math; and faculty capacity to meet developmental math student needs. Recommended actions in the coming years include funding and creating a coordinated research agenda to codify successful practices; amplifying student voices and experiences; and cultivating largescale faculty development initiatives to address equity issues and foster evidence-based instruction. We look forward to participating in the ongoing conversation and being a part of the movement to promote success among students whose needs are not being met through current practices.


Contact Senior Program Officer Sue Cui at