Three national foundations outlined plans last week for a $2.5 million investment in an unusual new research program that is aimed at improving success rates for community college students in remedial mathematics courses.
“What’s focused our attention on this is that in some institutions, 80 percent or more of students never get out,” said Anthony S. Bryk, the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a research and policy center based in Stanford, Calif.
A key stumbling block for many students is the remedial or developmental math courses that have to be passed before students can enroll in credit-bearing courses. As many as 60 percent of community college students take such courses, with some taking four or five before eventually giving up.
The initial $2.5 million investment from Carnegie, the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, spread over the next year and a half, will finance the “alpha phase” of the project, which will eventually involve 20 or more community colleges in two states and prominent researchers from across the country. (The Gates and Hewlett foundations also provide support to Education Week.)
The multi-partner project is the first reflecting the Carnegie Foundation’s new commitment to a “design-educational engineering-development” or D-EE-D, approach to research, which calls for involving a network of researchers, practitioners, and entrepreneurs collaboratively in cycles of development. Participants will design educational innovations, test them out, tinker with them, test them again more widely in new and different contexts, and tinker some more, much as software companies bring out newer and better versions of their products every few years.
The network announced last week is the first of several that the Carnegie Foundation plans to form around “high-leverage” problems in education. Mr. Bryk said he expects the remaining networks, which have yet to be announced, will focus on K-12 education.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week