The Effects of Initial Placement Enrollment on Community College Student Persistence: A Case Study of Developmental Education Policy and Practice
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College student retention is one of the most significant issues in higher education. Nationally, persistence and graduation rates have changed sparingly over the past decade (Tinto, 2006-2007). In community colleges, one-half of all new students are retained from their first to second year and graduation rates are low. In student success literature, researchers have long discussed the association between academic preparedness and success in college. In his analysis of a National Education Longitudinal Study, Bailey (2008) estimated that 60% of recent high school graduates who enter post-secondary education through the community college enroll in at least one developmental English, math, and/or reading course or more. When compared with students needing no remediation, this group of students is far less likely to persist, or to complete a college degree (Bailey, 2008).The purpose of this single institutional case study was to explore the relationship between student persistence rates and developmental education policy. Specifically, this study examined how assessment testing, placement policy, institutional practice, and initial course enrollment patterns related to student success. With the majority of students entering community colleges academically underprepared, the importance of the evaluation, as well the development of institutional policy, which may aid in increasing success rates, cannot be overstated (Price & Roberts, 2008-2009).The research methodology of this study included qualitative and quantitative approaches. Data was collected from the academic transcripts of a single cohort of all first-time, full-time, associate degree-seeking students who were enrolled at the college during the 2007 Fall semester and tracked for their persistence rates through the 2010 Spring semester. In addition, seven college professionals were interviewed and relevant documentation examined in order to perform the qualitative portion of this study. Descriptive statistics were utilized to report, summarize, and interpret the data. A Chi Square Test of Independence was employed to examine possible differences between groups as determined by selected independent and dependent variables. This mixed methods approach addressed the purpose of this study, that is, the study explored the relationship between student persistence rates and developmental education policy in terms of quantitative representation and qualitative explanation.This study provided an in-depth perspective of the history of developmental education in addition to initial placement policy and practices at the college. Throughout the interviews, two themes emerged institutional struggle with the right to fail philosophy and ambivalence towards/questioning of the validity of assessment testing instruments. The Chi Square Test indicated that there were no statistically significant differences between groups as determined by selected independent and dependent variables. Overall, the quantitative results of this research study did not support the research findings of other studies.