Community colleges rethink remedial placement

Community colleges are rethinking placement tests and looking for ways to start more students at the college level, reports Education Week.

About 60 percent of community college students are start in developmental education. Only 25 percent finish a credential in eight years, compared to 40 percent of students who start at the college level.

Long Beach City College in California now uses high school grades as an alternative placement method for recent graduates.

Community College of Baltimore County places some remedial writing students in a college-level composition class — and a skill-building class taught by the same instructor.

The school has found the intensive experience more than doubles the chance that a student will pass the credit-bearing class.

“We are no longer keeping students out of the credit course or isolating them with others who have weak writing skills. They are with stronger students,” said Peter Adams, the director of the program, who is working with schools around the country to adapt the model. “This is a way to shorten the developmental pipeline.”

When students study for the placement test, they’re more likely to place into college-level courses. Community College of Denver now publishes a review workbook and offers free tutoring for the placement test. On the first day of remedial classes, instructors make sure students are in the right level.

The first time Angelo Gallegos took the Accuplacer math test at CCD right after high school, he didn’t take it seriously and scored at the lowest level. Not wanting to waste time or money in a remedial class, he worked four years before returning to school.

To prepare for the test the second time, Mr. Gallegos, 26, went to Accuplacer tutoring sessions on campus over the summer from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. up to three times a week and studied at home another three hours a night.

He passed the test, started at the college level and became an honor student.

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