Why Acceleration?

Large research studies inside and outside California have established that the more levels of developmental courses a student must take, the less likely the student is to ever complete college courses in English and Math.

The California Acceleration Project stresses that we can’t keep attributing this problem to students’ low skills or low motivation. Instead, we must examine our curricular sequences themselves. Project leaders Katie Hern and Myra Snell make the case that high attrition rates are structurally guaranteed in multi-semester developmental sequences. The more “exit points” where students can fall away by not passing or not enrolling in the next course, the smaller the number of students who will complete the final course.


Faculty from the California Acceleration Project complete the thought “Acceleration means to me…”



One Goal, Many Ways to Get There

Accelerated developmental education aims to increase the numbers of community college students who complete college-level gatekeeper courses in English and Math. At minimum, acceleration involves reducing the length of English and Math sequences and eliminating the exit points where students are lost by not passing, or not enrolling in, courses in the pipeline.

There are many models for achieving this:

  • Mainstreaming Students into College-Level Courses
  • Open-Access Integrated Reading and Writing Courses
  • Pre-Statistics Courses that Bypass the Traditional Algebra Sequence
  • Contextualized Instruction Embedded in Career-Technical Programs
  • Mechanisms for Bypassing Levels
  • Compression Models that Combine Levels of Existing Sequence

In addition to reducing sequence length and eliminating exit points, we encourage faculty to reconsider the content of existing sequences, asking: Is what we’re teaching in remedial sequences what students truly need to succeed in college-level courses?


Key Resources

Article: Acceleration across California (Change, May/June 2012)

Newsletter: Acceleration News (May 2012)

Report: Accelerated English at Chabot College: A Synthesis of Key Findings (November, 2011)

Webinar: College Completion: Why Accelerating Developmental English and Math is the Essential First Step (May 2011)

Article: Exponential Attrition and the Promise of Acceleration in Developmental English and Math (Perspectives, June/July 2010)

Video: “Increasing Community College Students’ Completion: Toward an Action Agenda for Legislators, Policy Makers, and System Leaders,” Katie Hern speech to National Association of Latino Elected Officials, March 9, 2012