Reengineering Developmental Math

Accelerating Student Success Through High-Return Personalized Pathways

Topics: Community College, Academic Affairs, Academic Planning, Curriculum Development, Program Approval, Program Prioritization, Student Retention and Success, Developmental and Remedial Education

Current Entry Assessments Flawed

Unnecessary Pre-College Placement Common and Costly

At most institutions, a high-stakes exam testing high school concepts determines whether a student will start in developmental or college courses and have vastly different chances of degree attainment. The College Board’s Accuplacer and the ACT’s Compass exams are the most widely used placement exams across institutions; these exams rely on a single numerical score to place students into courses. A handful of states have developed more sophisticated placement exams for entering college students, but they represent a very small segment of available assessments.

Data from the Community College Research Center suggests that about one in four developmental students are overmathed—developmental students who would have earned a B or higher had they been placed into college math. This overmathing not only wastes students’ time and money, but also significantly diminishes their chances of degree completion.

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Preventing Unnecessary Pre-College Placement

Four Proven Strategies to Reduce Costly Overmathing

Forum research uncovered four best practices to prevent unnecessary pre-college placement: modular placement exams, co-requisite mainstreaming models, math refresher courses, and high school GPA as an alternative placement indicator. Across the next pages we’ll cover innovative incarnations of these strategies, shedding light on which strategies are most effective for unique student types.

Institutions considering redesigning their placement procedures should consider the types of students best served by each practice. While modular placement exams and the use of high school GPA as an alternative placement indicator work well for students at all skill levels, our research shows that co-requisite mainstreaming and math refresher courses should be reserved for upper-level developmental students and students who demonstrate high levels of motivation.

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Integrate Developmental Support with Career Training

Prevent Unnecessary Pre-College Placement