Evaluating Developmental Education Policy Reform in Florida

By Dr. Julie Harris, Research Analyst

Many students leave high school underprepared for college, resulting in the need for developmental coursework once they enroll. In 2008, over half of Florida community college students required remediation (Florida Department of Education, 2013). Such courses require time and money and do not count toward degree completion. Researchers have estimated the annual national cost of developmental education at $7 billion (Scott-Clayton, Crosta, & Belfield, 2014).

To reduce the direct and indirect costs of developmental education, Florida has introduced two major policies within the last decade. CNA researchers are evaluating these policies, and their evaluation findings have implications for state policymakers nationwide.

The first policy, the Florida College and Career Readiness Initiative (FCCRI), was first implemented during the 2008/09 academic year. The policy had two main goals: to raise students’ awareness of the skills necessary to succeed in college and to help students acquire these skills before leaving high school. This policy required high schools to implement college readiness testing in grade 11 and provide college readiness and success (CRS) courses in grade 12 for students who do not test college-ready.

CNA researchers received a five-year grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to evaluate the FCCRI’s effectiveness. The evaluation includes both a qualitative analysis of the policy’s implementation and a quantitative analysis of its impact on college-going and college course-taking and performance. Early findings from the implementation analysis revealed a lack of guidance for teachers in creating CRS courses. Additionally, teachers found the CRS courses to be helpful for some students but not for others, as it was difficult to engage students who had little to no interest in attending college.

The quantitative analysis indicated that the policy had an impact on college course-taking but not on college enrollment. The FCCRI seems to have had the greatest impact for college enrollees in the midrange of achievement on the state’s standardized achievement exam—this student group saw the largest increase in nondevelopmental course-taking. The policy was probably most effective for this group because lower-achieving students may have needed more of an intervention to become college-ready by the end of high school and higher-achieving students would probably have become college-ready even without an intervention. These findings suggest that deciding which students to target by the policy contributes substantially to the policy’s effectiveness.

The second policy, Senate Bill 1720, was first implemented in the spring of 2013/14. This bill aimed to reduce the costs of developmental education by changing the requirements for developmental course-taking and by requiring colleges to offer alternative developmental course delivery methods. With the implementation of this policy, college placement exams and developmental coursework became optional for students who had recently graduated from a Florida high school. Additionally, colleges had to redesign their developmental courses to include accelerated options such as modularized and compressed courses. Researchers from Florida State University and CNA are beginning to evaluate this policy’s effectiveness as part of another five-year IES grant. The results should inform policymakers across the nation about the implications of no longer requiring developmental education and of offering accelerated course options to provide students with additional support.

Dr. Julie Harris is a research analyst with expertise in quantitative research on improving college readiness and college-going rates. Julie has experience studying English learner students, law, education finance, and issues surrounding school choice. Julie joined the Education team in 2015, and she is currently working on a five-year Institute of Education Sciences grant to evaluate Florida’s College and Career Readiness Initiative. Julie holds a Ph.D. in educational policy from Michigan State University. She also earned a doctoral specialization in the economics of education, which was sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences through a predoctoral fellowship. She also earned an M.S. in economic research with a minor in geography and a B.A. in economics with a minor in business law from the University of North Texas.


Florida Department of Education (2013). The Florida college system—transparency, accountability, progress, and performance: How do Florida college system first-time in college degree seeking students perform in developmental education? Retrieved from https://www.floridacollegesystem.com/sites/www/Uploads/Publications/TAPPs/q3.pdf.

Scott-Clayton, J., Crosta, P. M., & Belfield, C. R. (2014). Improving the targeting of treatment: Evidence from college remediation. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 36(3) 371–393.Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1042032.

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