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A Pilot Study of Holistic Assessment and Course Placement in Community College: Findings and Recommendations

Author(s):
Rikoon, Samuel H.; Liebtag, Travis; Olivera-Aguilar, Margarita; Robbins, Steven B.; Jackson, Teresa
Publication Year:
2014
Report Number:
RM-14-10
Source:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Report
Page Count:
21
Subject/Key Words:
Acceleration (Education) Community Colleges Course Placement Developmental Education Mathematics Remedial Education SuccessNavigator

Abstract

The Educational Testing Service SuccessNavigator assessment measures student psychosocial skills relevant to success in postsecondary education. In addition to gauging the likelihood of student retention and academic success, SuccessNavigator provides course acceleration recommendations relevant to placement in both mathematics and English. To the extent that many community college students fail remedial mathematics courses, prior research has revealed such sequences to be among the most challenging encountered by that population. This report focuses on the academic success index and the mathematics course placement index. We analyzed the grades and passing rates of students conditional on their assigned level of each index. Further, we compared mathematics course passing rates between students placed using a holistic approach (incorporating the SuccessNavigator mathematics course placement index) and those placed according to standard institutional practice. No statistically significant differences in course success rates were observed between these 2 groups across 3 levels of mathematics courses. Overall, students for whom SuccessNavigator recommended acceleration passed their mathematics courses at higher rates than those receiving a cautionary recommendation. This finding was true in particular in college level and credit-bearing courses. Substantial differences in passing rates were also observed across campuses between the two acceleration recommendation groups. Our results are supportive of using SuccessNavigator acceleration recommendations to inform mathematics course placement in community college samples. We also found the SuccessNavigator academic success index to be predictive of overall college grade point average (GPA). Institutional recommendations and study limitations are discussed.

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