What’s Wrong with COMPASS or ACCUPLACER ?
According to a press release from the Community College Research Center (CCRC), two studies (one of a large urban community college system and one of a statewide system), found that “a significant number of students entering community colleges around the country are at risk of being inaccurately placed” in developmental English or Math. The research “indicate[s] that a quarter to a third of students assigned . . . based on standardized test scores could have passed college-level courses with a grade of B or better.”
As the two community college systems studied were very different, CCRC’s similar findings in both studies “strongly suggest that the problem is a general one and that large numbers of community college students across the country may be able to do well in college-level courses without taking remedial courses first.”
Students who have recently graduated from high school are particularly vulnerable to what CCRC terms “severe under placement” when the institution relies solely on a single test score from a test like COMPASS or ACCUPLACER: “nationwide, 60% of entering community college students who recently graduated high school are assigned to remediation.”
CCRC’s press release noted that “both studies find that students’ high school performance is a better predictor of which students could pass college classes,” and indicate that a combination of placement scores and transcript placement yields the most accurate results.
A Potential Solution: Placement Grids
To address this issue, Green River Community College (GRCC) Math and English faculty have collaborated with high school faculty to create transcript grids that place recent high school graduates using multiple measures, including grades earned in specific courses and overall grade point overage (GPA). GRCC uses both COMPASS scores and transcripts: the student is placed according to the higher of the two. To ensure that this innovation is truly more accurate, GRCC has been tracking the students placed by transcript.
Webinar: Building a Common Foundation
During this webinar, two GRCC faculty leaders will provide participants with an overview of the process of creating transcript grids in Math and in English and share the preliminary data from the Math department. Laura Moore-Mueller, Math faculty, and Marcie Sims, English faculty, have amassed between them almost a decade’s worth of experience in this work. They will share the highlights of their much-revised process of creating placement grids, including
- Reaching out to high school administration and faculty
- Structuring conversations between high school and college faculty around college-readiness and alignment of outcomes, assessments, and syllabi
- Creating the grids (including samples)
- Working with information technology staff, counselors, and academic advising to implement the grids
- Working with institutional research to track and measure the results once the grids are in place
While the overview is geared towards faculty and administrators new to this process, the presentation of the preliminary data and the opportunity for Q and A with the presenters makes this webinar suitable for experienced audience members as well.
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Participants new to the issues regarding placement may also be interested in viewing/listening to a previous SBCTC webinar: “Writing Placement: A Tense Interface.” An experienced writing professor, Wendy Swyt (who also serves as the Arts and Humanities Division Chair) provides a highly interactive and nuanced review of the national conversation around the complexities and complications of writing placement.
Questions? Please contact Jennifer Whetham at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 360 704 4354