Office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

Developmental Education Reform - A Key to Success for West Virginia Students 

A column by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

During my time as Senate President and now, as your Governor, I have made it a priority to improve our state’s business climate and to strengthen and grow West Virginia’s workforce to meet the long-term needs of business and industry operating here. While building this strong, diverse workforce is dependent on the needs of new employers, it also involves harnessing the talents of West Virginia workers and supplying a skilled, well-trained workforce.

Current projections show 60 percent of new jobs in the energy, advanced manufacturing and information technology industry sectors will require at least a two-year degree, while 74 percent of those jobs will require a form of post-secondary education. 

The West Virginia Community and Technical College System (WVCTCS) is working to provide the education and training programs necessary to supply highly skilled workers for these in-demand jobs. However, the road to graduation is not always an easy path.

In fact, 64 percent of West Virginia community and technical college students need developmental courses in English or math. For years, developmental education was considered the quicksand of higher education – students got in and never got out. Even more unsettling, only nine percent of those students completed their certificate or degree in four years.

In 2011, community colleges across the Mountain State came together to address these increasingly important issues and identified curriculum, policy, assessment and placement reforms. The taskforce received a critical boost when West Virginia received a $1 million grant from Complete College America (CCA). This funding was vital to bringing these reforms to multiple campuses while helping spread the new developmental education model – co-requisite courses – across two-year institutions.

Co-requisite courses, as designed by the taskforce, are college-level English and math courses that provide additional support for struggling students. West Virginia is one of the few states to adopt this new developmental education model, and the results have made a significant impact in the lives of students across the Mountain State. 

Under the traditional model, only 14 percent of students in developmental math courses passed a college-level math course within two years.  Under the co-requisite model, 62 percent of students in need of remediation are passing college-level math in just one semester.

I’m proud West Virginia is at the leading edge of this important developmental education reform effort. By giving our state’s struggling students the resources and individualized attention they need to be successful, we are continuing to strengthen our highly-trained workforce to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

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