Originally published for and posted by Strong Start to Finish. Reposted here with permission.

For over a decade, Carnegie Math Pathways at WestEd has been working alongside educators to design and implement math pathways solutions to support more students’ success in gateway college mathematics. Through this work, we’ve seen that it is possible to create more equitable learning systems that can benefit and support all learners. Yet, we’ve also come to understand that creating and effectively scaling developmental education reforms takes complex thinking, engagement of diverse stakeholders and a focus on equity at all levels. Because of this, we think Strong Start to Finish’s (SStF) newly updated Partner Services Menu is a helpful guide to institutions, decision-makers and change teams. 

The Partner Services Menu centers around six high-leverage service categories for developmental reforms — math pathways, corequisite support, placement redesign, other support structures and equity-first integration support.   

While the menu provides information about specific supports and services, it doesn’t mean that they need to be thought of in isolation. The value of this tool, from our perspective, is that it provides institutions and decision-makers with a useful framework to holistically prepare for and implement change. The tool aides strategic planning and scoping the needs and associated activities of institutional reform at multiple levels. The menu allows institutions to understand how the services intersect and build upon one another with the way the supports are presented. These supports enable leaders to identify the kinds of support needed and develop a more comprehensive plan to effectively achieve their reform goals.  

Seeing how these kinds of services have been combined in the past helps illustrate the benefits of using the Partner Services Menu. More impactful change plans are built when services are scaffolded across categories rather than selecting one-off services.  

Recently, we worked with a community college to redesign their math offerings and institute math pathways. This effort aimed to reduce equity gaps and improve student outcomes across their department. We supported the college as it engaged in multiple, overlapping activities to execute their planned changes. The following table shows how the overall body of work aligns to services from three of the four service categories in the SStF menu. 


Example of Institutional Activities  Related Services in Service Menu 
Restructuring and Casemaking  Following the college math department’s decision to redesign their offerings and eliminate their developmental courses, key departmental leadership and math faculty worked with Carnegie Math Pathways. They worked to engage in math pathways case-making and course alignment consensus-building within and across departments. 


Case-making for Math Pathways  
Professional Learning – Math faculty participated in Carnegie Math Pathways professional training in collaborative learning approaches and promoting productive student mindsets using social emotional student supports.   Equitable Teaching and Learning Strategies and Instructional Design 

Mindset Support 

Instructional support 

Leadership Support  Departmental leadership received coaching support from Carnegie Math Pathways’ administrator coaches to successfully organize, manage and sustain the change. Departmental leadership also received assistance to get buy-in from various institutional stakeholders, including faculty and advisors. 


Math Pathways Action Planning 

Policy Development and/or Revision 

Leadership Development 


This college’s comprehensive approach to reform ultimately resulted in a successful transition. They saw markedly improved student outcomes by narrowing equity gaps in the students achieving college math credit and greater instructional confidence among the faculty.  

Creating impactful change requires broad thinking and engagement. The case above highlights the variety of actions and supports that institutions may need to execute a successful change plan. To increase equitable access and outcomes in college math, structural changes are not enough for success. Institutional decision-makers must also attend to the classroom learning experience and ensuring understanding and support for change across the institution, including among faculty and students. Yet, we know that doing so takes planning and partnership, which is where the Partner Services Menu comes in.   

The new SStF services menu illuminates options and possibilities for institutions navigating the developmental education reform process, taking out much of the guesswork. It is a great starting place for planning and identifying partners to help institutions and decision-makers. The tool supports the journey to create impactful and lasting change that supports the success of all students. Take the first step by reviewing it today and see how it can help build and execute a vision for meaningful, equity-centered reform.  


Strong Start to Finish is a network of policy and research partners, institution and systems leaders and foundations advancing system reforms in developmental education, so every student can succeed in their first year of college. In particular, we support college success for Black, Brown, Asian American and Indigenous students, adult learners and students with low incomes, who have been underserved by the education system for too long. We work to scale the use of proven, proactive strategies that remove barriers that typically impede these students from earning essential college credits in English and math courses in their first year. Education Commission of the States is the host of the Strong Start to Finish network.