By Susan Frey
The tests used by many community colleges and universities across the nation to determine whether incoming freshmen are ready for college-level courses are often inaccurate and pose roadblocks to student success in college, according to new research summarized in a report released Wednesday.
“With education reformers keenly focused on remedial education, new research using longitudinal data systems questions the efficacy and fairness of the very tests on which the system of remedial education relies,” says author Pamela Burdman in Where to Begin? The evolving role of placement exams for students starting college. The report was supported by Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping community college students, its affiliates, and Jobs for the Future, which develops policy solutions aimed at college readiness and career advancement for low-income youth.
The research shows that high school grades are a better predictor of student success in college than placement test scores, Burdman said. She pointed to a study of students who graduated from Long Beach Unified school district and then attended Long Beach City College. Ninety percent of the students were placed in remedial education and had to take, on average, more than five semesters of remedial coursework. However, the study found that students’ high school grade point averages and their discipline records were much better predictors of college success than the placement tests. If the college had relied on those predictors, the the number of freshmen allowed to take college-level English courses would have risen by 500 percent.