Initiative Spotlight: Developmental Education

Evidence-based models reducing credit load for students

Barbara Curchack, PhD, dean of liberal arts at Inver Hills Community College, has worked with English, reading and mathematics faculty at the college to develop developmental education models that reduce the credit load for students, especially students of color, while increasing the likelihood they will continue their college journeys and complete their degrees.

Dr. Curchack pointed out that time and money are crucial factors when students make decisions regarding the feasibility of going to college. In the article below, she explains the benefits of the developmental education initiative, which includes multiple measures course placement, mastery-based education (see below for details) and co-requisite models.

Gateway Mastery Project

Gateway courses are courses that most students enroll in regardless of degree plan. We’ve designated them as such because their place in a typical student’s course sequence either allows a student to proceed with their degree path or prevents a student from continuing their path to a degree.


New Developmental Education Models at Inver Hills

by Barbara C. Curchack, PhD

Barbara Curchack, PhD

As a focus of Equity by Design, Inver Hills Community College is working to advance the education of the college’s student body, especially students of color, who are disproportionately represented (7:3) in developmental English, reading and mathematics courses.

We are focusing our efforts to support our students of color, because we’ve have learned that it has been taking them longer to complete developmental education, and many have dropped out after their first semester, even if they are making satisfactory academic progress.

Inver Hills is incorporating evidence-based models to reduce the developmental credit load and increase the likelihood that our students persist to their second semester and beyond, including multiple measures course placement, mastery-based education and co-requisite models.

This includes efforts to reduce the number of students placing into developmental courses and build the non-cognitive skills students need to succeed in college-level courses and future careers.

Faculty perspectives…

“I am excited to teach the College Algebra Co-Req course this fall. Our goal is not only to help shorten the pathway so that students can get to college-level math more quickly, but also to provide extra support and tools that will help all students become more empowered and successful in math.”
Dr. Carrie Naughton
Mathematics Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

“‘Accelerated’ learning programs are much more than faster for students; they are richer and more meaningful. Because the support course allows for time to ask questions, think with others, and practice strategies, students can be more fully engaged. They can more naturally make friends and talk with us instructors. Students seem to feel like they belong; I feel like my work is helping them be successful.”
Mary McCaslin-Thompson
English Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

“We will be incorporating a just-in-time teaching model where students are taught or are engaged in reviewing an important concept that they will then immediately apply to a new learning situation in statistics. The just-in-time approach will give students a structured environment in which to shape new learning from prior knowledge.”
Sara Lenertz
Mathematics Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Our students have told us that the financial burden of having to take developmental coursework is just too much. Last fall, approximately 100 students of color placed into the lowest levels of developmental education for English and/or math. Because the credits earned in developmental courses do not count toward students’ degrees, this puts an inequitable burden on their finances and ability to complete their education.

Inver has developed new placement processes focused on equity to get more students into their college-level math and English courses.

Beginning in fall semester 2021, most students who place below college-level math or English can complete that college-level course in their first semester.  What we want is for students to be successful.

For students wishing to be engineers, achieving success in College Algebra as fast as possible is a huge goal. But there’s more to math than algebra—and algebra isn’t necessary for most majors. Statistics, logic and everyday applications of math can be much more relevant.  Most students can meet their math requirement by taking Math for Liberal Arts, and all students can take Introduction to Logic and Critical Reasoning no matter their math placement.

Even more exciting is the new co-requisite (co-req) model.  Students take the college-level class they need for their major, be it Writing and Research Skills, College Algebra, or Introduction to Statistics, and they take a 2- or 3-credit co-req class that meets right after to go over the topics necessary to be successful in the course.

Class sizes are smaller, the same teacher teaches both classes so the information is relevant, it’s $200 to $600 cheaper, and the classes usually use the same books for increased cost savings.  Best of all, students finish their math and English courses a semester faster.

The sooner students pass their college-level English and math courses, the more likely they are to finish their degrees. Inver faculty transformed their teaching to make learning better for their students. They care so much about our students’ success, providing a welcome place where students can achieve their educational dreams. Our pilot in English showed dramatic success, and we’re eager to launch the full suite of courses this fall.

Barbara C. Curchack, PhD
Dean of Liberal Arts
Inver Hills Community College


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Learn more about the Developmental Education Initiative at Inver Hills by contacting:

Barbara C. Curchack, PhD
Dean of Liberal Arts

Admissions Team
College Center
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Or visit Admissions on the Inver Hills Community College website

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