Thirty-eight states are measuring 11th-graders college readiness, reports the Community College Research Center in Reshaping the College Transition. Some use state exams,while others use the ACT, SAT or community college placement tests. Even more states are expected to start testing when Common Core State Standards’ assessments are available.
Twenty-nine states are using catch-up courses or online tutorials to prevent students from landing in remedial education.
In a few years, high school graduates in North Carolina will earn diplomas showing their readiness for university, community college or careers, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Each seal requires a minimum 2.6 grade point average, basically a C+.
To earn the community college readiness seal, graduates must have completed Algebra II or integrated math III.
In February, the community college board decided graduates with a minimum 2.6 GPA can skip placement tests and start in college-level courses. The system’s research showed that 20 percent of students placed in remedial courses could have succeeded at the college level. High school grades are the best predictor of college success, the study concluded.
To earn the career readiness seal, students must
take four career/technical courses, score well on ACT’s WorkKeys exam, or have an industry-recognized credential, such a car repair certificate, Microsoft suite certification, or SAS programmer credentials.
Creating structured pathways to graduation will help more community college students achieve their goals, said presenters at the American Association of Community Colleges meeting in San Francisco.
Completion by Design, a Gates Foundation initiative, is working with community colleges on mandatory student advising and structured course sequences, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. College leaders from North Carolina, Ohio and Florida discussed their efforts.
Jobs for the Future‘s completion campaign focuses on getting students into college-level classes as quickly as possible.
Many students who end up in remedial courses don’t need to be there, but they don’t realize the importance of the tests that colleges often use as the sole placement criterion, said Gretchen Schmidt, a program director at Jobs for the Future. ”They didn’t prepare, they had kids in the hall running around, or they rushed through the test to get back to work … and as a result they ended up two levels down” in developmental courses.
Students who start in remedial courses rarely earn a degree. Recent research has shown students placed in high-level developmental courses do just as well at the college level.
North Carolina now lets high school graduates with a 2.6 grade point average or better skip community college placement tests and start at the college level.
A new Connecticut law limits state funding for remedial education to a single course.
Florida may “cut off nearly all support for stand-alone remedial education,” reports the Chronicle.
Lenore P. Rodicio, director of Miami Dade College‘s Completion by Design effort, worries that’s going too far.
“Seventy percent of our students come in needing some kind of remedial education, many of them from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and this could close the door to them,” she said.
Her college offers a one-week boot camp for students who place into remedial education to allow them to zero in on the skills they need to improve, and it’s looking at other ways to get students into credit-bearing courses faster.
In another session, California Community Colleges chancellor Brice Harris discussed the state’s new “student-success agenda,” which includes encouraging students to develop a study plan, dropping reliance on a single remedial placement test and giving new students priority for registration over perennial students who aren’t moving toward a credential.
The study measured students’ performance on the California Standards Test as high school juniors against their first year community college performance in four areas: the portion of the classes they took that transferable to the California State University system; the portion of remedial classes taken; and their grades in both types. In dramatically unsurprising findings. . . the authors found that students with the best scores on the CST had higher grades their first year in community college and were enrolled in fewer remedial classes.
One finding was surprising: “Regardless of their academic achievements in high school, Asian and white students consistently enroll in more transferable courses than their Latino and black counterparts do,” the study found. Whites and Asians in the bottom 25% of CST performance enroll in more transferable courses that blacks and Hispanics in the top 25%.
Latinos and blacks may have attended high schools with lower academic standards, start with less “college knowledge” and be sidelined by placement tests with cultural biases, Michal Kurlaender, an associate professor at the University of California at Davis’s School of Education, told Inside Higher Ed.
Researchers say community colleges place too many students in dead-end remedial classes, reports Education Week.
“Remediation is the typical experience now,” especially at urban community colleges, said Judith Scott-Clayton, an assistant professor of economics and education at Teachers College and an author of an influential study that analyzed an urban and statewide community college system. Eighty percent of urban students and 70 percent of statewide students failed the math placement test. Yet a look at students’ high school transcripts showed a different story.
She found that 20 percent of students placed in remedial math and 25 percent of those placed in remedial reading were “severely misidentified,” meaning that not only could they have passed the entry college course in that subject, but they could have done so with a grade of B or better.
“The high school transcript info is basically more accurate for every group we look at,” Ms. Scott-Clayton said. “It’s true that it’s more subjective, but you are getting multiple measurements accumulated over time across several instructors. And it is capturing a broader array of skills, not just pure mechanical test-taking skills, but effort, persistence, motivation—things that we know matter a lot for college success.”
However, she found results uneven for specific racial groups: While fewer Hispanic students were placed in remedial courses using high school information, more young black men were pulled into remediation.
At several Texas community colleges requiring universal placement tests, 30 percent of students assigned to remediation were ”college ready” based on their scores on the ACT, SAT, and state test scores, a RAND researcher concluded. Texas will develop its own placement test aligned to state college readiness standards.
The new assessment includes diagnostic tests to identify specific problem areas in each subject, and the coordinating board will require colleges and universities to use those to plan more targeted remediation—for example, enrolling a student in a credit-bearing class while providing tutoring or an elective class to fill gaps in the student’s knowledge in that subject.
The diagnostic part of the exam will help students catch up quickly, so they don’t have “to take a 15-week course, go into this sinking hole, and rot for the next two years,” said Judith Loredo, the assistant commissioner for the P-16 initiative.
Most colleges use placement tests alone — usually ACCUPLACER or COMPASS — to determine whether students start in remedial or college-level courses, despite concerns about inaccurate placement, according to a National Assessment Governing Board study. Only a small minority of colleges use high school grades, class rank or other criteria to determine placement.
Colleges don’t agree on what cut scores indicate college readiness, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. Community colleges typically require a higher score than four-year colleges and universities.
Half of all undergraduates and 70 percent of community college students take at least one remedial course. Most will not go on to complete a credential. Some reformers think remedial courses — not poor preparation — are the problem.
Many students are placed unnecessarily in remedial courses, according to several Community College Research Center studies.
For example, among two large samples of community college students who were deemed to have remedial needs based on standardized placement tests, up to a third could have passed college-level classes with a grade of B or better. (Companies that produce the tests have defended them in response to the studies and resulting criticism.)
The research also found that high school GPAs are better predictors of student success than placement tests.
However, grades may not say much about the many community college students who’ve been out of school for years. At the Community College of Baltimore County, for example, the median age is 28. Instead of evaluating high school transcripts, CCBC provides pre-test workshops and practice exams to help new students do well on the placement tests.
Colleges with many minority students are restructuring remedial education as part of Lumina Foundation’s Models of Success program, reports Rethinking Remedial Education. Minority-serving institutions are collaborating to improve instruction, revamping placement systems and improving student services.
California State University, Monterey Bay partnered with Cabrillo College and Hartnell College to create the Collaborative Alliance for Postsecondary Success (CAPS). CAPS has brought together about 10 faculty representatives from each campus to regularly exchange best practices and collectively develop innovative courses for students enrolled in remedial math and writing.
. . . Montana’s Salish Kootenai College (SKC) partnered with fellow Tribal College and University, Fort Peck Community College, to . . . identify the factors that contribute to the retention and success of American Indian postsecondary students who required remedial coursework in mathematics and English.
The Lumina MSI-Models of Success program focuses on improving first-generation students, low-income students and students of color.
Community colleges are trying to do a better job of evaluating new students and placing them in the right classes, according to a new study from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia. However, most colleges have focused on a single problem, not a comprehensive approach to placement accuracy and consistent college readiness standards.
Researchers looked at assessment and placement at two-year colleges in Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Community colleges are rethinking placement tests and looking for ways to start more students at the college level, reports Education Week.
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.
The L.A. Trade Bridge Academy provides free orientation for all students — informing them of how to create an education plan, enroll in courses, and access financial aid and other campus resources. New students and returning students can also take a diagnostic test to determine their placement in Math and English courses. Afterwards, students can enroll in free non-credit shortened refresher courses to help them strengthen their knowledge of certain concepts so they are better prepared for the official placement test and matched with the right courses.
. . . Early results show that student enrollment in a second term is up by 10% and refresher courses have increased the number of students successfully completing math or English courses by 11%.
Other Southern California schools, such as Long Beach City College, Mt. San Antonio College, San Bernardino Valley College, and Pasadena City College, also are improving student supports such as orientation, educational planning and assessment and placement, according to Campaign for College Opportunity.