- Community college administrators appreciate the efficiency of a single standardized test to determine whether students can proceed directly into degree-counting curriculum or should take developmental courses first, though they successfully implemented alternative measures, according to part one of a two-part study by the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR).
- CAPR examined prior student data at seven community colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) System to develop predictive algorithms for placing students in either developmental or college-level courses based on their likelihood of success. Factors considered include high school GPA, placement test scores and years since graduation.
- More than 13,000 students arriving to the two-year colleges in fall 2016, spring 2017 and fall 2017 will be tracked through fall 2018. Initial findings saw 14% of students place higher in math under the alternative program than they would have on the test-only path while 7% placed lower. In the English section, 41.5% of students placed higher while 6.5% placed lower.
Community colleges and four-year institutions are looking to competency-based programs in light of a growing body of research that suggests developmental courses may be hurting, more than helping, students. For example, a report from the Community College Research Center and social policy group MRDC found that one in three community college students is "misdirected" into a remedial course.
Cathrael Kazin, who was founding chief academic officer of Southern New Hampshire University's College of America initiative and led the first competency-based program approved by the Department of Education in 2013, told eCampus News that placement exams lack objectivity and that there is little evidence for their effectiveness. Placement tests have been linked to students requiring more time to graduate, increased dropout rates and higher costs for students, the publication notes.
Preliminary findings of a study from the City University of New York's Start initiative note that students who were enrolled in developmental courses during their first semester, in particular math, made more progress than did students who went directly into degree-counting classes. However, the latter group of students earned more college credits during that semester. CUNY Start students pay $75 for the program, allowing them to apply their financial aid award to credit-bearing courses.