Relationship of performance in developmental mathematics to academic success in intermediate algebra
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The study explored the relationship between student academic performance in an exit-level, developmental mathematics course and subsequent academic performance in a college-level mathematics course. Using an ex post facto research design, the study focused specifically on the influence of three sets of factors: (a) demographic characteristics, (b) "stopping-out," and (c) the developmental course. The criterion variables were college-level performance, defined in terms of the student's course grade, and college-level persistence, defined in terms of whether or not the student officially withdrew from the course. A convenience sample of 824 community college students who had completed both the exit-level developmental mathematics course and the entry-level college course during a three-year period from fall 1989 to summer 1992 was used for the data set; the students in the set were shown to be similar to several populations of developmental students. Discriminant function analysis indicated that the data supported the hypotheses. The discriminant function was calibrated on 364 cases randomly selected from the data set; the remainder of the cases were used to cross-validate the results. Cross-validated correct classification rates of 76.74% for academic success and 81.09% for persistence were obtained. The major conclusions of the study were: (1) Developmental course performance is a significant discriminator of college-level mathematics performance and persistence. (2) The length of time a student allows to pass between exiting the developmental course and entering the college-level course is a negatively related discriminator of both college-level performance and persistence. (3) Student age is a positively related discriminator of college-level mathematics performance. (4) The number of attempts at the developmental course is a negatively related discriminator of persistence. (5) African American completers of developmental mathematics appear to be more likely to withdraw from entry-level college mathematics than developmental completers in other ethnic groups. (6) Poor performance in exit-level developmental mathematics greatly increases the risk of failure or attrition for students in entry-level college mathematics. The implications of these results and those of several post hoc analyses were discussed in terms of their theoretical and applied contributions, the limitations of the study were detailed, and suggestions made for future research.