At the beginning of the summer I wrote a post Revamping College Math Placement about our new placement exam policy at NSC. This post is a follow up report to share our progress.

Previously we had been using the Accuplacer test to place all students in their initial math course. The new placement scheme uses an ACT score (a new requirement for all high school graduates in Nevada) to make an initial placement. Then students can complete work in EdReady over the summer to improve their placement into a college level math course.

old and new placement scheme diagram

The new placement policy puts the ball in a student’s court. Fortunately students have responded well.

The Numbers

For Fall $2016$ we had $247$ first year students who placed into remedial math for fall semester. We contacted these students about EdReady through various channels: phone calls from a student worker, emails with the specific details, and new student orientation. At the end of summer semester $60$ of the $247$ students had improved their placement into a college level course. Our placement of new students into college level math improved from $24\%$ to $42\%$. The students spent $23.7$ hours on average over the summer using EdReady to improve their placement.

The vast majority of those students are one semester away from completing all of their college math requirements. Needless to say, we and our students are thrilled.

Will They Succeed?

We will have to wait to see if the students who improved their placement will perform as well as the other students. However, we have have a lot of reason to be hopeful. The program has almost no downsides. Students who ignore EdReady will just keep their initial placement, so there is no disadvantage to students who choose not to use EdReady.

Our old system using Accuplacer had a poor track record of placing students in the right level. High school GPA has proved to be a more reliable indicator of success. Unsurprisingly a single test taken in the middle of the summer is worse at reflecting a student’s potential than the accumulated data of several years of effort offered by a GPA member.

The new system isn’t without risks. Couldn’t a weak student slip through to a more advanced class than they would qualify for? Possibly, but if a student wants to shoot themselves in the foot, then they will probably find a way to do it anyway. Will EdReady truly provide all the learning that a full semester-long course would? For diligent students, the answer is probably “yes”. If you show me a student who takes the initiative to spend $20$ to $30$ hours over the summer studying math on their own, working through problems, consistently bringing up their score, then I’ll show you a student who will thrive in a college level math course. Only time will tell if these students will actually succeed.