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A Multiple-Measures Approach to Mathematics Placement
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A Multiple-Measures Approach to Mathematics Placement Joanna Pruden ( Ed Owens ( Diana Kuhns ( Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport, PA. Philosophy of Placement Testing.

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Philosophy of placement testing

A Multiple-Measures Approach to Mathematics Placement Joanna Pruden ( Owens ( Diana Kuhns ( College of TechnologyWilliamsport, PA

Philosophy of placement testing

Philosophy of Placement Testing

  • 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.

Philosophy continued

Philosophy, continued

  • 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.

Philosophy of placement testing

Mathematics Course Flow Chart

Descriptions of placement levels

Descriptions of Placement Levels

  • Provides a detailed description of a typical student for each placement level

  • Used to inform faculty, students, and parents

Past placement process

Past Placement Process

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

Philosophy of placement testing

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.

Goals for new placement process

Goals for New Placement Process

  • 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

Goals continued

Goals, continued

  • 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

Components of the new placement exam

Components of the New Placement Exam

  • 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

Components students take

Components Students Take

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.

Factors used to assign placement levels

Factors Used to Assign Placement Levels

  • 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

Affective survey components

Affective Survey Components

Students complete online survey that provides

information about their math anxiety level, their

study skills habits, and their attitude about


  • Math Anxiety (0 to 10)

  • Study Skills (0 to 16)

  • Attitude (0 to 20)

Significant changes

Significant Changes

  • 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

Significant changes continued

Significant Changes, continued

  • Improved student support materials available on mathematics department website (

    • Purpose of the placement tests

    • Sample placement tests with self-analysis

    • Sample placement test FAQ’s

What s next

What’s Next?

  • 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



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