The effects of developmental algebra on community college students

Mark Nickell, Tennessee State University


The purpose of the study was to investigate the impact of developmental Algebra courses on academic performance among community college students by comparing developmental math course takers to non-course takers each with identical ACT math scores. By comparing groups of developmental Algebra course takers to non-course takers, this study sought to confirm if completing developmental Algebra courses has an effect on succeeding college math GPA scores. In this study the scores of 2582 freshmen community college students were drawn from the Tennessee Board of Regents school system and analyzed. Included in this study were freshmen who entered in the fall of 2000 and were tracked through 2003. Participants were further categorized by completed developmental Algebra courses, completed college-level math courses, and enhanced ACT math subscores. The gender of these students was 57.3% (1553) female and 42.7% (1029) male. Full-time students made up 50.7% (1309) of the sample population with an average age of 18.3. African American students composed 9.3% (240) of the students, while whites composed 87.4% (2255) and other ethnicities composed 3.3% (85). For this study, a total of 23 groups were compared. Eighteen groups were compared by ANOVA and further compared by Fisher's PLSD post hoc test at the .05 alpha level. Because of a substantial difference in group size, and unequal variances, the remaining five groups were compared by the Kruskal-Wallis Rank test and further compared by the Fisher PLSD post hoc test. Of the 23 different comparisons, only three were found to have a significant difference. The findings led to several conclusions: (1) the unreliability of predicting future academic success in college-level courses by using only Enhanced ACT scores as a predictor, (2) the Tennessee Board of Regents math cut scores accurately measure and relate the values of Enhanced ACT tests, COMPASS tests, ASSEST tests, and TABE values, and (3) the impact of developmental Algebra courses was found to have no significant difference on subsequent college math GPA scores. The lowest ACT students appear to surface, since they had the farthest to come to achieve the ultimate 2.7 average shared with the higher ACT students. This leads to several possible implications for practice, including the reliability of the Tennessee Board of Regents cut scores, the screening process, and the assessment decisions used by the Tennessee Board of Regents system are reliable and should be continued. Developmental courses build and encourage valuable traits like persistence and the willingness to work hard, giving students a second chance at a college education.

Subject Area

Community colleges|Mathematics education

Recommended Citation

Mark Nickell, "The effects of developmental algebra on community college students" (2005). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3206710.