Why Students Do Not Prepare for Math Placement Exams: Student Perspectives

Fay, Margaret; Bickerstaff, Susan E.; Hodara, Michelle

In response to the poor educational outcomes of students referred to developmental education, a number of states have redesigned their developmental curriculum and course structures to accelerate students’ progression through developmental requirements (Hodara, Jaggars, and Karp, 2012). Developmental education reforms often include the design and introduction of new entry assessments (placement exams) that are aligned to the college-level curriculum and intended to identify the skills and knowledge students have mastered and those they need to develop (Hodara et al., 2012). New customized assessments aim to place students into coursework more accurately than a standardized placement exam would, thus improving the likelihood that students will take only the courses they need to be prepared for introductory coursework in their degree programs.
Despite an increased focus on the instruments used during the assessment and placement process (Belfield and Crosta, 2012; Scott-Clayton, 2012), little attention has been devoted to how community college students experience assessment and placement (Venezia, Bracco, and Nodine, 2010). In this research brief, we use interview and survey data to illuminate student experiences with and perspectives on the math assessment and placement process at four community colleges in an eastern state system implementing new customized placement exams.
The findings presented in this brief are drawn from surveys completed by 122 students enrolled at four community colleges and from seven student focus groups with a total of 34 students at those same colleges. All student participants were enrolled in developmental math in fall 2012, when the data were collected.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 13, 2014