Examining the Role of Summer Bridge Programs in Promoting College Readiness and Completion: Lessons Learned from Texas’ Developmental Summer Bridges

Examining the Role of Summer Bridge Programs in Promoting College Readiness and Completion: Lessons Learned from Texas’ Developmental Summer Bridges
Examining the Role of Summer Bridge Programs in Promoting College Readiness and Completion: Lessons Learned from Texas’ Developmental Summer Bridges


As colleges across the nation strive to reduce the number of students requiring developmental education, summer bridge programs have emerged as a promising intervention designed to provide graduating high school seniors with the academic and college-going skills required to be successful college students. The National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR), in cooperation with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), is currently assessing the effectiveness of the summer bridge model in improving college preparation and success for students in need of remediation. This forum described efforts in Texas to create and evaluate developmental summer bridge programs for at-risk students. Panelists discussed the program’s development, review the evaluation results, and consider the implications for policy.

About 40 percent of traditional aged college students and nearly 60 percent of those who attend community college take at least one developmental education course.(1) In fact, students with greater academic deficiencies may be referred to a sequence of three or more semester-length courses in a single subject area, significantly delaying entry into credit-bearing classes. Yet research suggests that fewer than one half of students who are referred to developmental education complete their recommended sequence of courses.(2)

Developmental summer bridge programs aim to reduce or eliminate the need for developmental courses so that more students are prepared for credit-bearing courses in their first semester of college. Programs typically offer intensive targeted coursework for four to six weeks over the summer, accompanied by tutoring, additional labs, and student support services. The integrated approach of developmental summer bridges is thought to help ease students’ transition into college.

Beginning in 2007, the Texas legislature provided funding to the THECB to develop developmental summer bridge programs for at-risk students who were recent high school graduates, specifically with the goal of reducing the need for remediation among this population. Soon thereafter, NCPR began a large-scale, rigorous evaluation at eight of the developmental summer bridge sites, conducted with support from the USDOE’s Institute for Education Sciences and Houston Endowment.

The National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR) focuses on measuring the effectiveness of programs designed to help students make the transition to college and master the basic skills needed to advance to a degree. NCPR is currently pursuing research on dual enrollment; postsecondary remediation, including summer bridge programs; and financial aid. Established through a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, NCPR is housed at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, and operated in collaboration with partners MDRC, the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and faculty at Harvard University.


1. Attewell, P., Lavin, D., Domina, T., and Levey, T. (2006). New evidence on college remediation. Journal of Higher Education, 77(5), 886–924.

2. Bailey, T., Jeong, D. W., & Cho, S.-W. (2010). Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges. Economics of Education Review, 29(2), 255–270.

Speaker Interviews


Luzelma Canales

David W. Gardner

Katherine Hughes

Evan Weissman


Speaker Biographies

Luzelma G. Canales currently serves as the Interim Associate Dean of Community Engagement & Workforce Development at South Texas College. She oversees the development and implementation of initiatives related to community engagement and nontraditional programs (noncredit) for the College. She establishes and maintains collaborative relationships and partnerships with community organizations, members of the community, institutions of higher education, public school districts, and other private/public organizations and agencies. Luzelma oversees the development and delivery of all continuing, professional, and workforce education programs. She is also responsible for identifying and responding to grant opportunities, ensuring compliance with College grants/contracts, and facilitating accountability and management reviews for all college offices and departments. She serves as the College lead on the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count initiative, which is a national project addressing the achievement and attainment gap for underrepresented students. She is also the lead in the Excelencia in Education Starting Point: Community College and the Accelerating Latino Student Success (ALASS) at Texas Border Institutions initiatives, which focus on promoting Latino student success. Luzelma is also serving as the lead for the Public Agenda/MDC Community Engagement and Leadership Development pilot, which engages the diverse stakeholders in the region in community conversations focused on student success issues. Luzelma also serves on the Blue Ribbon Panel for theCommunity College Consortium for Immigrant Education, which is hosted by Westchester Community College in New York and the American Association of Community Colleges’ Voluntary Framework of Accountability initiative working group. To date, Luzelma has worked with five area School Districts and STC’s Division of Academic Affairs to establish six early college high schools. Canales has over 23 years of higher education experience. Luzelma was awarded the Meritorious Service Award in 1995 by the President of the University of Texas – Pan American and the Presidential Jaguar Excellence Award in 2005 by the President of South Texas College.

Ms. Canales holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pan American University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas – Pan American, and successfully defended on October 7, 2010 and will be awarded the Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University – College Station on December 2010.


As Deputy Commissioner for Academic Planning and Policy and Chief Academic Officer, David W. Gardner leads the Coordinating Board’s Planning and Accountability Division, the Academic Affairs and Research Division, and the Division of P-16 Initiatives. His primary responsibilities include coordination of the Board’s efforts toward Closing the Gaps through academic excellence and research at Texas institutions of higher education.

Previously, Gardner served the agency as the Associate Commissioner for Academic Excellence and Research and as the Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Information Resources. Gardner provided leadership for statewide initiatives such as Texas’ higher education planClosing the Gaps by 2015, the college and university electronic library resource sharing consortium, the Texas Accountability System for Higher Education, and the Texas Public Education Information Resource, which includes information on all students enrolled in Texas public schools, as well as public and private higher education institutions in Texas.

Prior to joining the Coordinating Board staff in 1985, Gardner was on the faculty at Hofstra University where he taught in the master’s and doctoral programs in the Administration and Policy Studies Department. While at Hofstra, he was director of the master’s program, chaired the university’s planning committee, and served on the graduate council and the scholarships committee. He has been a visiting professor at Texas A&M University, and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Higher Education at The University of Texas at Austin.

Gardner received his Ph.D. and Master’s degrees from Texas A&M University and his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston.


Katherine Hughes is the Assistant Director for Work and Education Reform Research at the Community College Research Center (CCRC) and the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE), Teachers College, Columbia University.. Since joining CCRC/IEE in 1995, Hughes has led and conducted research on the transition from high school to college and careers, including projects addressing the national school-to-work initiative, employer involvement in high schools, work-based learning, career academies, secondary-postsecondary partnerships, and state policies that facilitate transitions and pathways. Her current work focuses on the potential of dual enrollment for preparing disadvantaged youth for college. Hughes has published results from her work in a range of periodicals including Journal of College Student Retention Community College Review,Teachers College RecordTechniques, and Phi Delta Kappan, and she co-authored the book Working Knowledge: Work-Based Learning and Education Reform (with Bailey and Moore; from RoutledgeFalmer Press). Hughes serves on the New York City Advisory Council for Career and Technical Education. She holds a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University.



Evan Weissman has over ten years of experience in education and social policy research at MDRC. Weissman has managed projects, provided technical assistance, and conducted qualitative research in a wide range of settings. His current work is primarily focused in the area of postsecondary education, helping to better understand ways to improve college access, persistence, and success for low-income and underprepared students. Weissman plays key roles on several major studies of community college initiatives, including the Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Study and the national Learning Communities Demonstration, both of which are being conducted as part of the National Center for Postsecondary Research. As Project Director of the Student Support Partnership Integrating Resources and Education (SSPIRE) initiative, Weissman oversaw nine California community colleges’ efforts to integrate student services with academic instruction. He has also played key roles in providing technical assistance, designing and launching random assignment evaluations, and conducting qualitative research in range of social policy areas including early childhood education; job training and parenting programs for non-custodial parents; public housing; and welfare employment programs. Weissman is the lead author of “Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Math” (forthcoming), “Promoting Partnerships for Student Success: Findings from the SSPIRE Initiative” (2009), and “Changing to a Work First Strategy: Lessons from Los Angeles County’s GAIN Program for Welfare Recipients” (1997).

Co-sponsored by the National Center for Postsecondary Research

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Click here to watch the speaker interviews on our YouTube Channel»

Luzelma Canales
Community Engagement and Corporate Training
South Texas College
Accountability and Management Services
Pecan Campus, Building X, Room 118
3201 W. Pecan
McAllen, TX 78501


David W. Gardner, Ph.D. 
Deputy Commissioner forAcademic Planning and Policy
Texas Higher Education
 Coordinating Board
1200 E. Anderson Lane
Austin, TX 78752


Katherine Hughes
Assistant Director for Work and Education Reform Research
Columbia University
Community College Research Center, Teachers College
Box 174
525 West 120th Street
New York, NY 10027


Evan Weissman
Operations Associate
16 East 34th Street
19th Floor
New York, NY 10016



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