Scaling Up through Networked Improvement (SUNI): Improving developmental math outcomes at scale

Ann Edwards
Senior Research Associate

Developmental mathematics is a significant barrier to student success and degree attainment in institutions nationwide.
• Community colleges: Between 50 and 70% of incoming students must take at least one developmental math course before they can enroll in college-credit courses; 80% do not complete a college-level math course within 3 years.
• 4-year comprehensive institutions: Approximately 20% of incoming students place into developmental math; 63% do not complete a college-level math course within 2 years.

Evidence-based solutions such as math pathways and corequisite models have been developed and are being implemented with success in some institutions for some students. What is less well understood is how to scale innovation effectively and sustainably to impact more students.

Guiding Goal and Questions
The goal of the Scaling Up through Networked Improvement (SUNI) project is to test and refine a practical theory about scaling complex educational innovations, like the Carnegie Math Pathways, within institutions of higher education through leadership coaching about organizational change and improvement. Key research questions are:
• What institutional implementation activities do leaders undertake when planning, implementing, and scaling Carnegie Math Pathways programs?
• How can improvement-focused coaching support leaders to manage these activities in order to implement the program effectively, sustainably, and at scale?
• What is the impact of the program on student mathematics outcomes (e.g., course grade, course completion, subsequent course taking)?

Preliminary Findings: The SUNI project, currently in Year 4, consists of two studies: (1) Leadership Study – a qualitative case study of the activities of leaders implementing institutional change with coaching support and (2) Student Outcomes Study – analysis of the impact of the CMP program on student outcomes employing propensity score matching. This poster reports on preliminary findings from the Leadership Study, based on analysis of two 2-year cohorts of two institutions. Three themes will be shared, along with supporting evidence:
• Distributed decision-making authority and accountability
• Change as a constant in institutional leadership and organization
• Variability in take-up and impact of leadership coaching

Additional anticipated deliverables: The project activities, such as coaching and implementation planning, alongside analyses of these activities will produce evidence-based knowledge about institutional implementation of innovation at scale, as well as concrete products developed for these activities. These products include the refined CMP Implementation Framework, related activities, and resources designed to support those activities, such as a readiness assessment and an implementation planning guide.

Broader Impacts
This work has the potential to dramatically increase the success rates of the developmental math students in participating institutions. The project has directly impacted four institutions and at least 15 instructors and approximately 500 students to date. Based on current success rates, we expect approximately 400 students of those students to complete developmental math and achieve college credit, more than would have with traditional remediation. This work also contributes to the improvement of a network of approximately 80 CMP institutions that currently serves about 10,000 students and that will reach more institutions and students in future years, contributing to the improvement of developmental mathematics outcomes nationwide.


Ann Edwards, WestEd, San Francisco, CA