Florida has worked on developmental education for a decade (letter)

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Dear Editor,

I read with great interest, Madeline St Amour’s article of December 2,2020, “Developmental Education Reform Improved Passing Rates.” The article detailed the reform measures and the documented successful outcomes of the reform in Florida. As a thirty-year veteran in developmental education in Florida, I am happy to celebrate the reform success St. Amour’s article examines. As part of my celebration, I reference the following: “The reform also required colleges to change the way they offered developmental education…” What the article’s scope does not address is developmental educators in Florida who were already busy redesigning developmental course offerings as early as 2010, three years before the legislation. 

Community and state colleges around Florida had convened developmental task forces, cross-functional teams, committees, etc., to refine the methods and modalities, as well as re-examine best practices in our field. The Florida College System held forums and supported a state-wide listserv for faculty feedback. The real experts in developmental education were hard at work to find ways to best serve our underprepared student populations and to foster their success and college completion. It is also important to note that although up until 2000 some colleges offered 3 course developmental sequences in English, reading and math, those were mostly gone by mid-decade. No longer can critics claim that developmental education is a barrier in Florida. As a result of the reform, passing rates in developmental courses improved. Depending on the institution, older students returning to college needing a refresher or underprepared students enrolling right after high school can complete a refresher course which targets individual needs in an accelerated 4-8 week session.

Developmental education is still alive in Florida. It is lean and laser-focused on meeting the academic and affective needs (developmental educators’ expertise) of underprepared students. Along with St. Amour; the researchers, Park-Gaghan, Mokher, Hu, Spencer, and Hu; the Florida College System; college presidents; and the Florida legislature; we, the developmental educators of Florida celebrate this grand success!

Sincerely,

–Elizabeth W Smith
Developmental reading and writing, State College of Florida, Manatee, Sarasota
President, Florida Association for Student Success



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