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Philosophy of Placement Testing

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A Multiple-Measures Approach to Mathematics Placement Joanna Pruden ([email protected])Ed Owens ([email protected]) Diana Kuhns ([email protected])Pennsylvania College of TechnologyWilliamsport, PA

- Penn College evaluates students' skills to ensure that they have the entry-level skills necessary for their majors and college-level coursework.
- The placement process should determine the highest level at which a student has the prerequisite knowledge to be successful.

- The goal of the mathematics placement process is to identify the appropriate initial placement into the mathematics curriculum so that each student can succeed in college mathematics.
- This placement level will determine a student’s initial mathematics course-selection options.

Mathematics Course Flow Chart

- Provides a detailed description of a typical student for each placement level
- Used to inform faculty, students, and parents

Prior to Spring 2008 -

- Used standardized (paper and pencil) tests prepared by ETS
- Did not permit calculators
- Assigned placement levels based solely on placement test scores

Past Placement Process, continued

- A committee of math faculty was able to adjust the placement level upward based on a student’s math background and results of an affective survey.
- The committee was not able to adjust a student’s placement level downward.

- Develop new placement tests that more closely aligned with our course goals and student outcomes
- Expand the depth of questioning at the elementary algebra level
- Allow for the use of a calculator

- Implement a new process for assigning placement levels that includes examining multiple measures
- Establish sub-scores that provide critical information beyond content topics
- Basic (Algorithmic)
- Applications
- Concepts

- Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra
- pre-algebra and elementary algebra skills and concepts
- 58 questions (20 PA/38 EA)/45-minute test

- Intermediate Algebra
- intermediate algebra and geometry skills and concepts
- 25 questions/30-minute test

- Functions and Graphs
- algebraic, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions and graphs
- 37 questions/45-minute test

Every student begins the placement process by taking two

components of the exam.

- Students with Math SAT scores greater than or equal to 550:
- Intermediate Algebra and Function and Graphs components
- SAT scores must not be older than 2 years

- Students without Math SAT scores or with Math SAT scores less than 550 or older than 2 years old:
- Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra components
- For students who do well, the committee may recommend that they take the Functions and Graphs component online at a later date.

- Scores on mathematics and reading placement exams, including cluster scores
- High school math courses and the level of success in those classes
- SAT and ACT scores, if available
- PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) math scores, if available
- Amount of time that has passed since the student completed his/her last math course
- Study skills, anxiety, and attitude scores, as determined by an affective survey
- High school rank

Students complete online survey that provides

information about their math anxiety level, their

study skills habits, and their attitude about

mathematics.

- Math Anxiety (0 to 10)
- Study Skills (0 to 16)
- Attitude (0 to 20)

- Less disagreement with students and parents over assigned placement levels
- Improved student advising, especially with developmental students
- More remediation prior to first semester at the College
- More data available for future assessment and improvement

- Improved student support materials available on mathematics department website (www.pct.edu/math)
- Purpose of the placement tests
- Sample placement tests with self-analysis
- Sample placement test FAQ’s

- Assessment projects to improve the process
- Examine impact on course success rates
- Determine which measures are better indicators of success in first math course

- Outreach to local high schools
- Create sample placement tests
- Conduct workshops for high school teachers and counselors