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Heavy Lifting: The State Capacities Required for Scaled Developmental Education Reform

Michael Lawrence Collins

Developmental education is increasingly a target of reform for state policymakers. Rigorous research has exposed developmental education as a significant obstacle for students, particularly low-income young people and workers, as they pursue the postsecondary credentials they need to compete in today’s economy. This brief draws on the experience of four states in Jobs for the Future’s Postsecondary State Policy Network—Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia—that are among a very small number of states engaged in statewide developmental education reform. These states' experiences highlight what all states can consider to ensure that changes are well-designed and effectively implemented and squarely aimed at helping students earn credentials with value in the labor market. Both what these states did well and what they might have done differently can provide insight to states now considering or embarking on statewide developmental education reform. 

This report is part of the DesignForScale Series. The DesignForScale Series encourages the field to develop a more strategic and cohesive approach to scaling student success reforms at and across community colleges. The series affirms that it is time to be more systematic, serious, and organized about designing visionary, integrated reforms to be implemented at scale, while maintaining appreciation for questions, new evidence, and college context.

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