Working paper

Developmental Students

Their Heterogeneity and Readiness
W. Norton Grubb
University of California, Berkeley


In the sixth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al. continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges. When one observes many developmental classrooms, the most striking aspect is the heterogeneity of students. Some are “brush-up” students, who simply need to remember skills they have already learned. Some have been misplaced by placement exams, and similarly need very little additional instruction. Many—almost surely the majority—have failed to learn certain academic skills in many years of K–12 education, for reasons that are hotly debated. Others have learning disabilities or mental health issues, and colleges have no way of either diagnosing or treating such conditions. The result is that the developmental classroom contains many students with different needs, while the instructor has only varying instructional approaches to offer. While it may seem that community colleges are already highly differentiated, this working paper implicitly argues that they need to be further differentiated to respond to the variety of students and the enormous differences in their needs. The conclusion provides a number of suggestions for further differentiating colleges in order to serve all the needs of their enormously varied students.
Suggested citationNorton Grubb, W. (2012, March). Developmental students: Their heterogeneity and readiness [Working paper]. Policy Analysis for California Education.