Strategies for Promoting Gatekeeper Course Success Among Students Needing Remediation: Research Report for the Virginia Community College System

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is engaged in a strategic planning process to improve performance beyond the goals in Dateline 2009, the system’s current vision and plan. A key objective is to encourage colleges to improve retention and academic success for students, particularly the substantial numbers who arrive unprepared for college-level work. Specifically, the VCCS seeks to improve the rates at which underprepared students complete developmental coursework and advance to take and pass college courses, particularly the initial college-level, or “gatekeeper,” math and English offerings. 

The VCCS asked the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, to conduct analyses to inform its efforts to improve student outcomes. In response, CCRC designed a study to address the following question: What student characteristics, course-taking patterns, and other factors are associated with higher probabilities that students who require remediation will take and pass college-level math and English?

This report presents the main findings from CCRC’s study and outlines suggestions for steps that the VCCS and its member colleges might take to improve completion of gatekeeper courses by the many students who enter the state’s community colleges poorly prepared to succeed in college-level work.

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