History of the National Association for Developmental Education:

40 Years of Service to the Field

In 1976, what is today the National Association for Developmental Education was only an idea in the minds of a handful of developmental educators. For anyone who has not lived through the history of NADE, it is hard to imagine how far we have come. When I was elected president of the association in 1981, our membership included about 400 people. Our annual budget was less than $2,000. We had only two local chapters. Today, NADE is the largest and most influential professional association in the field.

The following history of NADE describes some of the activities and events that have brought us through the past forty years. These activities and events would not have taken place were it not for the extraordinary efforts of those who have served the association as conference presenters, committee members, committee and SPIN chairs, state chapter leaders and executive board members. This history, therefore, is also their history, and it honors their accomplishments.

—Hunter R. Boylan, Ph.D.
NADE President, 1981–83; Director, National Center for Developmental Education

The beginnings: 1976–80
In the spring of 1976, a small group of college and university professionals from the Chicago area met at an event hosted by the Chicago City College System to discuss their work in the field becoming known as developmental education. As an outgrowth of the meeting, the participants decided to establish a professional association for developmental educators. Dr. Gary Saretsky of Chicago State University and Dr. Harold Hild of Northern Illinois University were elected as the association’s first president and vice president. They continued to serve in this capacity until 1981 while a constitution and by-laws were developed.

The association was originally known as the National Association for Remedial/Developmental Studies in Postsecondary Education or NAR/DSPE. This name was selected for several reasons. NAR/DSPE’s founders hoped that the association would eventually become a truly national group. Furthermore, at the time of the association’s founding, the terms “remedial” and “developmental” were both about equally popular. Consequently, the founders decided to use both names in the association’s title. Although cumbersome, the name NAR/DSPE served its purpose at the time and was used for the following eight years.

A major step in the development of the association during its early years was the establishment of local chapters. The first local NAR/DSPE chapter was established in 1979 in New York City followed closely by the addition of the South Carolina Association for Developmental Education (SCADE) as a state chapter. The New York City Chapter was later merged with the New York State Chapter (NYCLSA). As a result, SCADE remains as the oldest state chapter continuously affiliated with NADE.

A decade of development: 1980–90
During its early years, the association was centered in the Midwest, its members were drawn from that area, and its conferences were held in Chicago. In the 1980s, however, the association branched out from Chicago, holding conferences in Charleston, SC; Cincinnati, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Little Rock, Ark.; New Orleans, La.; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and St. Louis, Mo. In 1981, following several years of work, a new constitution was approved for the association. This document, with various amendments added in the following years, has continued to govern the association’s operations today.

In 1984, member dissatisfaction with the name “NAR/DSPE” resulted in a movement to find a new designation for the association. The two names finally considered were the International Developmental Education Association (IDEA) and the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE). The membership voted for the latter, the constitution was altered to reflect this change, and the association has since been known as NADE.

The association’s expansion in the 1980’s was facilitated by the continued addition of state and regional chapters. New chapters were established in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. In addition, the NADE leadership was able to encourage several strong existing state organizations to affiliate with the association. Examples of these included: the Arkansas Consortium for Developmental Education, North Carolina Association for Developmental Studies, Oregon Developmental Studies Organization, Ohio Association for Developmental Education, Pennsylvania Association for Developmental Education and Washington Association for Developmental Education. By 1990, the association had 28 chapters representing 35 states and the District of Columbia.

In 1983, the Journal of Developmental Education, published by the National Center for Developmental Education, was adopted as the association’s official journal. The Journal has since become the premier journal in the field of developmental education with a circulation of nearly 5,000 and a readership of twice that number.

In the early 1980s, the association also established a membership database, initiated the systematic collection of dues, enhanced its committee structure, set aside cash reserves, expanded its newsletter, developed a systematic approach to funding and budgeting issues and strengthened its infrastructure. An awards program also was developed in the 1980s to honor members and non-members who had made significant contributions to developmental education and developmental students.

NADE’s first award was the John Champaign Memorial Award, established in 1983 for an outstanding developmental education program. This award honors the memory of John Champaign of the Community College of the Finger Lakes, an active member of NAR/DSPE and an innovative developmental educator who added much to the field before his untimely death in a 1982 automobile accident.

Other awards included those for the Outstanding Developmental Educator and the Outstanding Research or Publication Award. One of the first winners of this award was Martha Maxwell for her classic work, Improving Student Learning Skills.

The Henry Young Memorial Award was established in 1988 for the individual who had made an outstanding contribution to the association as a worker and leader. Henry Young, of Southern University in Louisiana, was a long-term committee chair, was active in the Louisiana Association for Developmental Education, and served as vice president of the association in the mid-1980s. Even as he fought terminal illness, he continued to serve the association until his death in 1987. Other awards established during the 1980s included the award for outstanding administrative support for developmental education and awards for ongoing and completed research projects.

The association’s conference attendance passed the 1,000 mark for the first time at the annual NADE Conference in Cincinnati in 1989. Membership, which numbered about 400 in 1980, was to approach 2,000 by the end of the decade.

A decade of expansion: 1990–2000
NADE opened the last decade of the 20th century with its annual conference in Boston. This conference marked the beginning of NADE’s international efforts as a special conference track was established to explore the international dimensions of developmental education. More than 50 postsecondary educators from outside the United States attended this conference, and several presented sessions describing the approaches used for developmental education in other countries. NADE’s commitment to the international aspects of developmental education continues to this day and includes liaison with its European counterparts, the Forum for Adult and Continuing Education and the European Access Network.

NADE also continued to expand its national presence by holding conferences throughout the United States during the decade of the 1990s in locations such as Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Little Rock, Nashville, San Antonio, Kansas City and Washington, DC. A highlight of the Nashville Conference in 1991 was Maya Angelou, who delivered the keynote address.

Throughout the 1990s, attendance at NADE Annual Conferences continued to exceed 1,000. During the 1990s, record attendance marks were set at the NADE Conferences held in Kansas City in 1994, Chicago in 1995, and Atlanta in 1998.

Following almost a decade of work, a milestone for the entire field of developmental education came with the publication of the NADE Self-Evaluation Guides in 1995. A product of the Professional Standards and Evaluation Committee led by NADE veterans Martha Casazza, Susan Clark-Thayer, Georgine Materniak, and Gladys Shaw, the self-study standards provide a comprehensive approach to formative evaluation for developmental programs. They also form the basis for the NADE Certification Program, which was originally conceived in 1996. This program provides recognition for programs that maintain high standards of professional practice.

A major step in the association’s development was the design and implementation of a strategic plan in 1995 and 1996. This plan enhanced the consistency and stability of NADE by establishing goals, objectives, and priorities to guide association activities. The plan was the product of collaboration among the NADE Executive Board, NADE committee chairs, and the NADE Emeritus Council, with input from the NADE membership. The strategic plan is a dynamic document reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the NADE Executive Board. This insures that it continues to address current trends and issues in the field.

Another milestone for the field occurred under NADE leadership in the fall of 1998 when the association joined with the U.S. Office of Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Education to present the first Harvard Symposium on Developmental Education. The purpose of the symposium was to bring public school and postsecondary educators together with government officials to explore potential areas of collaboration in working with at-risk students. At this symposium, a series of key position papers was presented by national figures in developmental education. These papers were featured in the 1999–2000 volume of the Journal of Developmental Education. The symposium also led to the establishment of the NADE Think Tank on Developmental Education, designed to explore key issues in the field.

In the 1990s, NADE renamed two of its major awards to honor former presidents of the association for their contributions to the field. An award for the outstanding state chapter of NADE was designated as the Curtis Miles Award in recognition of his efforts to develop and promote the association’s state chapters. The NADE award for outstanding research was designated the Hunter R. Boylan Award in recognition of his efforts to promote developmental education as a legitimate field of higher education research. The association also added an award for professional development and named it in honor of Anne Ferguson, a former president of the association’s Louisiana chapter and a NADE vice president, who passed away in 1997.

The association also added a new award for the Outstanding Alumnus of a Developmental Program. The presentation of this award to a former developmental student who has overcome academic adversity and been successful in college has become one of the high points of NADE Conferences. Another NADE award established in the 1990s was the Martha Maxwell Developmental Education Student Scholarship for a developmental student, instituted at the association’s 1997 conference in Denver.

During the 1990s, new state chapters were added in Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and Oklahoma. A regional association called the Southwest Association for Developmental Education (SWADE) was established representing Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Utah and Nevada.

The Twenty-First Century
The association’s first conference of the new century was held in Biloxi, Miss., and initiated several new features. The nation’s first developmental programs to receive NADE Certification were recognized at this conference. The NADE Think Tank also was held during the conference as a follow-up to the Harvard Symposium.

In the early years of the new century, NADE Conferences continued to expand the association’s national footprint. Conferences were held in Louisville in 2001; Orlando in 2002; Austin in 2003; St. Louis in 2004; Albuquerque in 2005; Philadelphia in 2006; Nashville in 2007; Boston in 2008; Greensboro, NC, in 2009; Columbus, Ohio, in 2010; Washington, DC, in 2011; Orlando in 2012; Denver in 2013; and Dallas in 2014. The association’s 2007 conference in Nashville, the first board-sponsored conference, set a new record for NADE Conference attendance with 1,559 registrants.

NADE also has continued to expand its state and regional chapters. The association added the Pacific Rim Chapter headquartered in Hawaii in 2008. It also held an organizational meeting to explore the possibility of setting up a Caribbean chapter of NADE at the 2008 International Conference on Research in Developmental Education. California NADE members decided to form their own chapter, CalADE, after having been members of SWADE for many years. CalADE was installed at the NADE 2010 Conference in Columbus, OH. Today, NADE is represented in most of the 50 states by 30 local and regional chapters.

The association launched its own professional publication, the NADE Digest, in 2005. The Digest is now an online journal published three times each year. Since 2005, the association benefited from the hiring of an executive assistant, former NADE President Dr. Carol O’Shea, to manage the NADE database, promote communications with members, and maintain the association web site. NADE also has established a marketing committee to help state and regional chapters increase their membership and is emphasizing political advocacy as a part of NADE chapter responsibility.

In the new century, NADE also has provided leadership in bringing about greater collaboration and communication among professional associations in the field. NADE officers worked with the leaders of the Association for the Tutoring Profession (ATP), College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA), National Center for Developmental Education, and National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA) to maintain the American Council of Developmental Education Associations (ACDEA). The council was renamed as the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA) in 2008. The Association of Colleges for Tutoring and Learning Assistance (ACTLA) was added in 2013. This council, including the chief executive officers of member organizations, works to promote collaboration among professional associations in the field.

One of the council’s initiatives, the Fellows Program, pioneered by Martha Maxwell, honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the field through leadership, research or service. Thirteen Founding Fellows of the American Council of Developmental Education Associations were initiated at a special ceremony during the 2000 NADE Conference. To date, 49 learning assistance and developmental education professionals have been named as council fellows.

A major focus of the association during the first decade of the 21st century was expanding its certification program. At the 2009 NADE Conference, the association celebrated the publication of the second edition of the NADE Self-Evaluation Guides edited by Susan Clark-Thayer and Lisa Putnam-Cole, which was published by H&H Publishing in Clearwater, Fla.

NADE has continued to work to promote greater collaboration with other organizations, both nationally and internationally. NADE has established liaisons with the Forum for the Access and Continuing Education (FACE) in the United Kingdom and the European Access Network (EAN). NADE representatives have attended and presented regularly at these conferences.

NADE also explored collaborative projects in South Africa and Japan and, as a result, added a Japanese developmental educator to the Journal of Developmental Education Editorial Board. In addition, NADE has entered into reciprocal agreements with the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), and National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) to continue to meet the evolving professional needs of its members.

During this decade, NADE developed grants for chapter development and scholarships for professional development. NADE awarded the first scholarship to attend the Technology Institute for Developmental Educators (TIDE) in 2009 to enable developmental educators to explore use of technology in education. In 2010, the first Adjunct Scholarships were awarded to enable adjuncts to attend NADE conferences. The William G. White Jr. Graduate Study Scholarship was first awarded in 2011. This award, named after this long-time mentor of Grambling State University graduate students in the field, promotes graduate study in developmental education in order to advance research and practice in the field. Current awards also were renamed for former NADE leaders who had passed away during the early to mid-2000s. These included the Susan E. Hashway Outstanding Thesis/Dissertation Award, Gladys R. Shaw Award for Outstanding Service to Developmental Education Students, and Vashti Muse Award for Outstanding Alumnus of a Developmental Education Program.

Since 2010, NADE representatives have also been “at the table” for a number of national developmental education initiatives. NADE Executive Board members have participated in convenings sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, Jobs for the Future, American Association of Community Colleges, Achieving the Dream and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Developmental Education Initiative.

The 2011 NADE Conference was held in Washington, DC, and among the highlights were the Town Hall meeting (“NADE, Politics and Hot Apple Pie”) pulling together folks from some of the major foundations and other leaders including Hunter Boylan, Sue Cain, Tamara Clunis, Michael Collins, Uri Treisman and Suzanne Walsh. The conference included institutes and concurrent sessions on political advocacy. NADE leaders and conference participants also modeled the lessons of advocacy by making visits to their representatives on Capitol Hill. Wall Street Journal Columnist and Author Jeff Zaslow, who served as the keynote speaker, shared important political insights of the day.

The 2012 NADE Conference met for the second time in Orlando, Fla., with the theme of “Developmental Education: A Mosaic of Learning.” This theme honored the diversity of programs, professionals, and students who make up the field of developmental education. The conference featured the continuation of the NADE Town Hall Meeting and announced the winner of the first Gladys R. Shaw Award for Outstanding Service to Developmental Education Students. The award was named to honor Dr. Shaw for her commitment and many years of service to her students. All those who knew Dr. Shaw remember her as a selfless, committed, cheerful, and hard-working professional who contributed mightily to both NADE and CRLA. Also, the plenary speaker, Dr. Suzanne Walsh, senior program officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, heralded the imminent changes for many developmental programs across the nation. The 2012 conference also witnessed the beginnings of board-initiated, special strands, panels and sessions that focused on critical issues in the field.

Beginning In 2012, in response to various national initiatives, NADE collaborated with the National Center for Developmental Education (NCDE) to develop a list of “Principles for Implementing Statewide Innovations in Developmental Education.” Over the course of 2012–13 NADE leaders and NCDE experts consulted in the development of these principles as a guide to policy makers considering developmental education reform.

The 2013 NADE conference met for the second time in Denver, Colo., with the theme “Pioneering the Education Frontier.” In many colleges, developmental programs are the first to innovate and be change agents for their institutions, and the 2013 conference highlighted a variety of changes being implemented by developmental educators. A highlight of the conference was Temple Grandin, the event’s keynote speaker, who challenged conference attendees to see learning and abilities in a new way.

During the 2013 academic year, NADE collaborated with the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) to sponsor a national summit on developmental mathematics. The summit has been held in conjunction with annual AMATYC Conferences in 2013 at Anaheim, Calif., and in 2014 at Nashville, Tenn. The National Developmental Math Summit continues at the NADE 2016 Conference in Anaheim.

In 2013, NADE also completed its document on principles for implementing statewide innovation and sent the principles to the chairs of every state education legislative committee in the United States. They were also sent to all of the nation’s state higher education executive offices.

The 2014 conference was held in Dallas, Texas. The conference featured a number of institutes and presentations on innovation and redesign in developmental education, thus responding to a national movement to explore innovation in the field. Keynote Speaker Serita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, challenged conference participants to look at themselves and their work with a focus on educational access for all. For the first time, executive board strands addressed graduate student perspectives and managing developmental education redesign. The 2014 conference also marked the addition of a new NADE state chapter in Arizona and a regional chapter representing Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The 2014 fiscal year also brought about change in NADE Conference and data-base management. After a decade of service as NADE’s business manager, Carol O’Shea, retired, and PEAK Management was selected to assume the management of the NADE Office. Activities for the year 2014 also included a collaboration between NADE and the Southern Education Fund and the development and introduction of a program redesign institute sponsored by the NADE Certification Council. A national summit on integrated developmental reading and writing also was organized during 2014. It was presented at the 2015 NADE Conference in Greenville, SC.

In 2015, the Certification Council, led by Dr. Linda Thompson and in collaboration with the NADE Executive Board, proposed to the membership that its process be transitioned to NADE Accreditation, which reflects both the rigor required in the process and the acknowledgement of the high level of achievement associated with attaining it. Today, the Certification Program and the NADE Certification Council celebrate 18 years of success in helping programs increase their effectiveness.

Also in 2015, NADE Collaborated with the National Center for Developmental Education to present an advanced Kellogg Institute entitled, “Making Our Voices Heard in the Reform Conversation.” The institute was attended by NADE Executive Board members and other developmental educators from around the country. It resulted, among other things, in a Chronicle of Higher Education article describing the concerns of developmental educators regarding the direction of remediation reform. NADE’s efforts to support its members at the national level continue as executive board members have participated in national meetings of higher education funders and advocated for developmental education.

The 2016 NADE Conference takes place at the Marriott Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. The conference is held in collaboration with the California Association for Developmental Education (CalADE). During the 2016 Conference, NADE Accreditation is introduced. The former NADE Certification Council is re-envisioned as the NADE Accreditation Commission. This transition reflects more closely the rigor of the process offered by the commission, which assists programs to engage in critical self-study and program review based on data-driven considerations. Programs that are currently certified will be recognized now as accredited programs. Another highlight of the conference is the announcement of a new award recognizing Dr. Maxine Elmont. Dr. Elmont has been involved with NADE for more than 30 years and is known for her small stature, strong spirit, and unequaled commitment to service to her students and to developmental education.

As NADE continues into the twenty-first century, its members have much to reflect upon with pride. The association’s motto: “Helping underprepared students prepare, prepared students advance, and advanced students excel” symbolizes an exciting and expanding role for NADE and its members in the years to come.

Prepared by Hunter R. Boylan, Ph.D., January 2000
Revised: January 2001, December 2003, January 2005, February 2010, January 2012, January 2013, December 2014 and February 2016


NADE, The National Association for Developmental Education, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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