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Building better students by building better college procedures: How community colleges could better convey incentives for school effort Prof. James E. Rosenbaum, Pam Schuetz, Ph.D. and Amy Foran Northwestern University
Note. From “Community college: The unfinished revolution,” by Rosenbaum, Redline & Stephan, 2007, Issues in Science and Technology, 23, p. 50. 12/10/2010 2
The “Zen-question” • If colleges give a “test,” and students don’t see any reason to do well, have students really taken a test? • Consider Emma. Did she take a test? • A test’s validity depends on more than merely its test items. Validity is also a function of the social context of testing. 12/10/2010 3
Community Colleges and Placement Tests • Students placed in lowest remedial levels of reading and math have less than a 33% and 17% chance respectively of completing the remedial sequence (Bailey, Jeong, & Cho, 2010). • About 75% of students report not preparing for a placement test, yet almost 3/4 of those students would advise others to do so (Rosenbaum, Shuetz, & Foran, 2010). • 2/3 of community college students do not realize their remedial courses do not count for credit (Rosenbaum, Deil-Amen, & Person, 2006). 12/10/2010 4
Community Colleges and Placement Tests • What do community colleges tell incoming students about placement tests? 12/10/2010 5
Methods and Sample • 9 public community colleges (4 in Illinois and 5 in California) • Websites are the major source of information 12/10/2010 6
Findings • The Test: What is the placement test? • Community college websites do not advertise placement tests. • Several colleges barely mention the test. • Many colleges bury information deep within their sites. 12/10/2010 7
Findings • Incentives: Why is the test important? • Community college websites do not inform students of placement tests’ impact on degree timetables. • Colleges often avoid giving discouraging information and provide vague, reassuring descriptions of the test instead. 12/10/2010 8
Findings • Preparation: How can students get a better score? • “Summer gap” • Community colleges do not recommend preparing for placement tests. Some discourage it. • Preparation materials are limited. 12/10/2010 9
Findings • Timing and Retest: When should students take the test? • Advice on when to take the test and retesting is largely unavailable. • Advantages to testing early: • Fresh content • Allows time for practice and retesting 12/10/2010 10
Findings • Use: How to use test results? • Provide students with information to devise successful plans within timetable; • Indicate student’s level of preparation; • Forecast additional time needed for remedial; • Advise students in choosing first career goal. 12/10/2010 11
Conclusion • Community college webpages provide little information about existence and importance of placement tests. • Social context undermines the test’s validity as an indicator of students’ college readiness. • Community colleges’ lack of clarity on placement tests likely hurts remedial results, regardless of students’ achievement. 12/10/2010 12
What can community colleges do? • Standardize and organize the community college admissions process - emulate that of selective colleges’ admissions and testing • Admissions test • “National Decision Day” • Early Registration • College Board and ACT procedures • Improve advice given on websites - the main source of information about community colleges 12/10/2010 13
References Bailey, T., Jeong, D. W., & Cho, S. (2010). Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges. Economics of Education Review, 29, 255-270. Rosenbaum, J., Deil-Amen, R., & Person, A. (2006). After admission: From college access to college success. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Rosenbaum, J., Redline, J., & Stephan, J. (2007). Community college: The unfinished revolution. Issues in Science and Technology, 23(4), 49-56. Rosenbaum, J., Schuetz, P. & Foran, A. How students make college plans and ways schools and colleges could help. (working paper, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, July 15, 2010). 12/10/2010 14