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July 7, 2021

Expanding Promise Symposium SPARK Talks: Students Needing Academic Support Design Team

On June 2nd, 2021, College Promise and ETS held day one of the Expanding Promise Symposium, a virtual event centered around the findings of five research design teams examining the wrap-around supports and financial sustainability solutions that best aid and enable different groups of students to enter and persist to, through, and beyond college into living wage jobs and community life. The symposium brought together students, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and other Promise stakeholders to review and discuss scholarly insights for five key student populations: First-Generation Students, Youth In or Aged-Out of Foster Care, Students with Disabilities, Student Parents, and Students Needing Academic Support. The symposium’s programming included lightning-round talks, in which a member of each research design team gave a 5-minute presentation summarizing the findings and recommendations for their studied student population.  


Toby Park-Gaghan is an Associate Professor of Economics of Education and Education Policy in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He represented the Students Needing Academic Support design team which includes Drew Allen of Georgetown University; Tamara Bertrand Jones of Florida State University; Hollie Daniels of Florida State University; Jonathan Furr of Northern Illinois University; Alyssa Guzman of St. Philip’s College; Martin Hernandez of St. Philip’s College; Alison Kadlec of Sova, Lee Hart of Better Future Forward; Tatiana Melguizo of USC; and Marla Sole of Guttman Community College, CUNY.


Park-Gaghan states that the reality of higher education today is that not all students who arrive at college are ready for college-level work.  “Since traditional methods of developmental courses intended for students needing academic support are not working,” Park-Gaghan explained, “let’s not be resistant to change, let's embrace it.” Major areas prime for reform include placement testing and pre-enrollment orientation.


The research team recommended the creation of co-requisite development application models, where students take developmental courses in the same semester as the college-level courses. Additional recommendations include improving faculty teaching, developing gateway courses, and strengthening collaboration across departments and sectors.


To learn more, watch the full recording here.