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May 20, 2021

ACME Policy Marks a New Era for Equity and Student Success at CT Community Colleges

Based on national best practices, ACME removes enrollment and completion barriers, bolsters just-in-time supports, and affords all students a clearer path to success at Connecticut State Community College.

The Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) today voted to adopt the Alignment and Completion of Math and English (ACME) policy aimed at dramatically improving outcomes for community college students. Based on national best practices, ACME removes enrollment and completion barriers, bolsters just-in-time supports, and affords all students a clearer path to success at Connecticut State Community College.

ACME moves Connecticut away from a prerequisite model of developmental education, in which many students are required to pass noncredit remedial courses before advancing to college-level courses. Instead, the state will implement a corequisite approach, wherein students who are academically unprepared are placed into credit-bearing classes and given additional support services that enable them to succeed in the classes and advance to higher levels.

“Despite our best efforts, pass rates for college-level math and English have not risen beyond 23 percent,” said Dr. Merle Harris, chair of the BOR’s Academic and Student Affairs committee. “These rates drop to 14 percent and 20 percent for our Black and Latinx students, respectively. The ACME policy is a clear investment in increasing student success – moving from a system that prioritizes standardized test scores over known achievement and from the lengthy, less effective, prerequisite model to a corequisite model."

Results from states that have fully implemented a corequisite approach have shown dramatic improvement. In Georgia, implementation of corequisite supports has increased college-level course completion in mathematics by 47 percent and in English by 26 percent. Of particular significance is that students with the lowest ACT scores have the greatest gains. Most importantly for Connecticut, which has one of the widest equity completion gaps in the country, Georgia found that the corequisite support model shows significant gains for racially minoritized students.

Current research also shows that high school GPA is a far more accurate measure of academic preparedness for course placement than high-stakes standardized tests. Research also shows that more students complete college-level, transferable mathematics, and English courses when offered in the corequisite format across all levels.

"This is an asset-based policy. It focuses on understanding what our students can accomplish when they receive needed supports," said Dr. Jane Gates, interim president, and provost and vice president of academic and student affairs of CSCU. "It is bold, evidence-based, and informed by what students have already accomplished as a result of their high school, military, or professional careers. By establishing the ACME policy, the Board of Regents has invested in our students’ future success, and therefore, the future of our state and our economy."

In addition to the move to a corequisite model, ACME eliminates the use of placement testing in favor of high school GPA; establishes math pathways ensuring courses are aligned with the skills students need to be successful in their chosen career; and expands practices that will eliminate longstanding completion and opportunity gaps that have disproportionately disadvantaged Black and Latinx students.

“As not only a professor whose work has been focused on developmental English since 1993, but also as a graduate of a Connecticut K-12 experience over 30 years ago that landed me in remedial classes in my first year of college, I am looking forward to creating and supporting a teaching and learning environment where ACME becomes actionable as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Tanya Millner, associate vice president of teaching and learning for Connecticut State Community College. “Our professional learning opportunities during the next few years will be geared toward moving faculty, staff, and administrators from theory and anecdotal information to best practices in developmental education reform. The ACME policy presents us all with solutions to an equity crisis that has been discussed and half-heartedly addressed for many decades now, and I am honored, as I am sure many others are, to play a role in this work.”

"The research here is clear and overwhelming. Students who place into prerequisite courses are less likely to enroll in subsequent course sequences, and therefore less likely to persist to degree completion,” said Dr. Ken Klucznik, CSCU’s vice president of academic affairs. “Low-income students and students from minoritized and marginalized communities are disproportionately represented in developmental classes resulting from inaccurate placement. The ACME policy is a step towards ensuring higher education's promise of economic mobility and family-sustaining wages for all is met."

The CSCU ACME policy requires Connecticut State Community College campuses to align with ACME standards by no later than the fall of 2025. The Board of Regents will rigorously assess policy implementation to make certain equity and opportunity gaps are closed and student success rates improved.