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Changes Emerging on Community College Placement Exams

As research calls into question the value of placement exams, and students continue to struggle in developmental education, community colleges are making changes. Some are focused on better preparing students for the tests, while others are revamping placement altogether and looking at alternative ways to evaluate students.

Too often, students walk on a community college campus to register for classes and are caught off guard when they are asked to take a placement exam. They may have a ride waiting for them or kids to pick up from a sitter and they rush through the test. The problem is that the test is high stakes. Students who don't pass end up in a developmental education course and often never progress. Once eager students can lose their drive and run out of money paying for classes and not receiving credit.

To get more students into credit-bearing classes and on to a degree, community college are trying new approaches. Long Beach Community College is considering high school grades instead of placement-test results to determine college course readiness. The Community College of Denver has stepped up tutoring services and test-prep materials for students taking the Accuplacer exam. Students in need of developmental education in English-composition courses at the Community College of Baltimore County can enroll in a course for credit and get extra instruction at the same time.

For more on model programs and research about placement exams, see Community Colleges Rethink Placement Tests.)

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