Uses an experimental design to examine the outcomes of a summer accelerated developmental education program at eight colleges in Texas aimed to help underprepared students entering college; and follows a model from the Texas Education Coordinating Board, and includes instruction in developmental math, reading and/or writing; academic support; a college knowledge component; and earned incentives.

“Across the country, a growing number of recent high school graduates are participating in summer bridge programs. These programs provide accelerated and focused learning opportunities in order to help students acquire the knowledge and skills needed for college success. The state of Texas has given particular attention to summer programs as a way to increase students’ college readiness. During the past several years, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has provided support to colleges establishing developmental summer bridge programs offering intensive remedial instruction in math, reading, and/or writing, along with an introduction to college. In contrast with traditional developmental education course sequences, which may span several semesters, the summer bridge programs were designed to help underprepared students build competencies over the course of several weeks before entering college” (ES-1).

“The current study uses an experimental design to evaluate the outcomes of eight developmental summer bridge programs offered in Texas during the summer of 2009. At each college, students who consented to participate in the study were randomly assigned to either a program group that was eligible to participate in a developmental summer bridge program [n=793] or a control group that was eligible to use any other services that the college provided [n=525]. Based on a program model developed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the developmental summer bridge programs in this study included four common features: accelerated instruction in developmental math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a ‘college knowledge’ component; and the opportunity to earn a $400 stipend” (p.iii).  The report also examines the program costs and considers the implications of the findings.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Authors: National Center for Postsecondary Research (a partnership of the Community College Research Center; Teachers College, Columbia University; MDRC; the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia; and faculty at Harvard). 


Major Findings & Recommendations

“After two years of follow-up, these are the main findings of this study: • The programs had no effect on the average number of credits attempted or earned. Program group and control group students attempted the same number of credits (30.3). Students in the program group earned an average of 19.4 credits, and students in the control group earned an average of 19.9 credits; the difference in their outcomes is not statistically significant. • The programs had an impact on first college-level course completion in math and writing that was evident in the year and a half following the program but no impact on first college-level course completion in reading during this same period. On average, students in the program group passed their first college-level math and writing courses at higher rates than students in the control group during this period. By the end of the two-year follow-up period, however, the differences between the two groups are no longer statistically significant. • There is no evidence that the programs impacted persistence. During the two-year follow-up period, students in the program group enrolled in an average of 3.3 semesters, and students in the control group enrolled in an average of 3.4 semesters, a difference that is not statistically significant” (p.ES-3). When summarizing the results of the study, the authors believe the “findings in this report suggest that the developmental summer bridge programs contributed to positive outcomes in college-level course completion in math and writing that were evident during the first year and a half after program completion. However, the programs did not lead to increases in persistence or overall credit completion, raising the question of whether [the authors’] theory of change and the changes in measured outcomes that [the authors] hypothesized were reasonable were too ambitious. It may be that [one] should not expect to find long-term impacts on credit accumulation and persistence from a short, intensive summer program. First-year developmental education students may need further support for greater impacts to be achieved.” (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)