Three Organizations to Collaborate to Improve Student Success in Mathematics

January, 2014

Initiative Announced at January 16 White House Event on College Opportunity
In early 2014, Achieving the Dream, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Jobs for the Future will jointly explore with community colleges, higher education organizations, philanthropy, and other stakeholders the feasibility of creating a "Breakthrough Collaborative" to address the alarming failure rate of students in post-secondary remedial mathematics or “gateway” courses.
This is not a trivial problem. Eighty percent of students who place into developmental mathematics do not complete a college-level course within three years. Many spend long periods of time repeating courses and most simply leave college without a credential. As a consequence, millions of students each year are not able to progress toward their career and life goals. Equally important, these students lack command of the math that matters for personal life in an increasingly quantitative age and to be critically engaged citizens. In addition, a disproportionate number of these students come from traditionally underserved populations.
Achieving the Dream (ATD) provides expertise in institutional change. Carnegie provides expertise in faculty engagement and curriculum reform. Jobs for the Future (JFF) provides expertise in policy development and implementation.
The Breakthrough Collaborative is a strategy that has proven to be a powerful structure for broad-scale quality improvement in healthcare and has the potential, with appropriate modifications, for turning the same power loose for educational improvement. In this case, it will join colleges willing to collect common data and progress markers to learn together as they implement and improve promising practices that accelerate progression through remediation and gateway courses.
The idea of a Breakthrough Collaborative is to: (1) identify the specific targeted (and measureable) problems to be solved; (2) generate a short list of “promising solutions” per target; (3) develop a shared working theory of practice improvement (i.e., what specific problems will need to be solved in order to integrate effectively any one or more of these change ideas into any given institution); (4) engage members willing to commit individually and as a community to measurable progress—“what outcomes to be accomplished by when” with regular data feedback as to “how are we doing?”; (5) agree to operate as a networked community using the disciplined methods and tools of improvement research to generate practice-based evidence to guide progress toward these measurable targets; and (6) agree to participate as a leadership learning community that assembles a few times a year to learn from each other and use this in turn to accelerate improvement together.
The three organizations would function as a hub for this leadership learning community. Presumably it would have three strands: (1) state-level policy and capacity-building to enable this innovative activity to occur (JFF); (2) institutional leadership to motivate, catalyze and support this improvement activity within each college (ATD); and (3) an improvement research learning center (Carnegie) and analytic hub (Carnegie).
Together, the organizations would assemble for the Collaborative the necessary policy, institutional leadership, and instructional expertise to move work forward (including regular reporting on progress as a mechanism for internal accountability and local incentive). The key idea is to exploit the capacity of structured networks to develop practice-based evidence to accelerate improvement rather than each place going it alone.
The initiative builds on the Carnegie Foundation’s efforts that in the first two years have tripled the success rate of students who placed into developmental mathematics courses in half the time. Carnegie formed a network of community colleges, professional associations, and educational researchers to develop and implement the Community College Pathways Program, organized around two structured pathways, known as Statway® and Quantway®. Students and faculty are now joined in a common, intensive year-long experience toward the shared goals of achieving college math credit in one year and reclaiming their mathematical lives for a lifetime.


Year Two Success in Math Pathways Illustrates the Power of Networks
Written by Carnegie Staff, Posted in What We Are Learning

In its second year, Carnegie’s Community College Pathways (CCP) program sustained its high level of student success while also experiencing a growth in the number of students enrolled and the number of campuses teaching Pathways courses. The Community College Pathways: 2012-2013 Descriptive Report provides detailed student outcomes as well as insights into the challenges and improvements in the second year of Pathways implementation.
The Pathways were developed to address the alarming failure rates of students in developmental math in community colleges. Over 60 percent of the nation’s 14 million community college students are required to take at least one developmental mathematics class before they are eligible to enroll in college-credit courses (Achieving the Dream, 2006; Bailey, Jeong, and Cho 2010). However, 80 percent of the students who place into developmental math do not successfully complete any college-level mathematics courses within three years (Bailey, Jeong, and Cho, 2010). Instead, many students spend long periods of time repeating courses and leave college without a credential. This means that millions of students each year fail to acquire essential mathematics skills and are unable to progress toward their career and life goals.
Working through a Networked Improvement Community (NIC), Carnegie put into the field two new mathematics pathways, Statway® and Quantway®. Both aim to simplify the path through the development mathematics sequence for students. Rather than a seeming random walk through a maze of possible course options (Zeidenberg and Scott, 2011), Statway and Quantway reduce the number of courses required while improving the content and pedagogy for developmental mathematics.
Carnegie believes that working in NICs and focusing on continuous improvement in classroom practice were key reasons for the repeated positives outcomes for students in Year 2.
The NIC realized the following results in its second year of operation:

52 percent of the 853 Statway community college students successfully completed the year-long pathway (received a grade of C or better in the final term). This is consistent with the results of 49 percent in Year 1 (2011-2012).
Statway expanded to two additional colleges within the California State University (CSU) system adding a total of 204 students.
75 percent of CSU Statway students successfully completed the pathway, comparable with 74 percent in Year 1.


The number of students enrolled in Quantway 1 tripled from Year 1 for a total of 1,402 enrolled.
Quantway 2, the second semester of the pathway, was launched for the first time at three community colleges with 49 students.
52 percent of students successfully completed Quantway 1, demonstrating continued positive outcomes with 56 percent in Year 1.
In its first semester, 68 percent of students successfully completed Quantway 2.

With considerably more students enrolled, the Year 2 data indicate that the Pathways offer the opportunity for students in a variety of contexts to gain key mathematical skills and reach their academic goals.
For more information on the Year 2 results, download Community College Pathways: 2012-2013 Descriptive Report.

ROI Study Shows Colleges Gain Revenue from Implementing Carnegie’s Math Pathways
Written by Gay Clyburn, Posted in What We Are Learning

Carnegie’s two pathways — Quantway® and Statway® — for students placing into development mathematics have had notable success in their first implementation. Over 51 percent of Statway students successfully completed the entire pathway, including earning a college-level credit in statistics in one year, compared to 6 percent of a baseline comparison group attempting the traditional sequence in a year. Even when expanding the timeframe for the traditional group to three years, only 20 percent of the entering cohort achieved transfer-level success, again compared to the Statway rate of 51 percent. These results represent a 250 percent increase in one year success over the conventional approach extended to three years. For the eight colleges starting Quantway in spring 2012, results were just as heartening.
Achieving results like these generated a good deal of interest from institutions and faculty members. But as Rob Johnstone, with the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement, writes in a Carnegie-commissioned Return on Investment (ROI) study, “While programs such as Statway and Quantway may very well demonstrate an impressive improvement in student outcomes, a significant concern still emerges from a college standpoint: Can we afford to do this at scale?” Johnstone finds that Statway and Quantway very well may make money for an institution. For a relatively modest initial investment of upfront costs that very often is less than the costs of boutique programs, Statway and Quantway can be implemented at scale for the entire range of students needing such an alternate approach rather than for the handful of students served by most boutique programs.
Generally these returns on investment are due to the increases in realized tuition and state apportionment funding from subsequent course taking, and Johnstone employs an ROI model that uses a number of inputs that allow a college to customize it to their local situation, including:

Salaried personnel costs
Hourly personnel costs
Other incremental fixed costs for Statway and/or Quantway implementation (e.g., Carnegie subscription fees, travel to a summer forum and winter regional meetings, supplies, recruiting, etc.)
College tuition
State-level apportionment funding per FTEs
Number of students in Statway and/or Quantway at the college, either as a pilot or at scale
Predicted increase in FTEs from Statway and/or Quantway

When Johnstone studied the six Pathways colleges who were selected to  participate in the ROI modeling exercise, he found that even with relatively conservative estimates on downstream FTEs generated by successful Statway and Quantway students, the model generated a positive return on investment with an associated positive net revenue figure every time.
Figure 1 provides the modeled net revenue figures over a three-year period for each of the six colleges associated with a single Statway or Quantway cohort, ranging from $6,744 to $177,905.

After calculating these incremental net revenue figures using the model noted in Figure 1, Johnstone also calculated a classic ROI rate. In Figure 2, ROI is calculated by taking the incremental net revenue associated with a program and dividing it by the total incremental program costs.

The ROI rates produced by the model, even with reasonably conservative estimates, were all positive, and ranged from 12 percent to 334 percent.  Note that even the 12 percent ROI indicates that the college would generate net revenue that is 12 percent higher than the incremental program costs. From industry standards, ROI rates that are above 50 percent (achieved in three of the six sampled colleges) are considered quite high and those over 100 percent (as observed in three of the six) are extremely high.
Taken together, the results of these ROI models are quite positive, Johnstone notes, concluding that in addition to the more important outcome of getting 2.5 times as many students to succeed in transfer-level mathematics in one year as a traditional group did in three years, the ROI models suggest that Statway and Quantway will likely be able to achieve this outcome at a net revenue gain to these colleges.
In addition, Johnstone also modeled other fiscal impacts such as cost per completer, student tuition and books savings, and student wage gains, finding in each case that a successful Statway / Quantway program would positively impact these key fiscal factors. The study found that “if Statway and Quantway can help get students through their community college pathway one year sooner, these students are estimated to register a nearly immediate $24,600 wage gain. Clearly, the catalytic effect of this gain to transform our students’ lives and accelerate their momentum upward on their career path is remarkable.”

Norman Stahl
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