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Capacity for Reform

Creating, implementing, evaluating, and refining multiple measures placement policies generally requires additional capacity in the form of expertise, staff, and technology. The specific capacities required, and where they come from, depend on the state and campus context, as well as the type of placement reform developed.

State, System and Campus Practice

System or state-level supports: State systems can support campus capacity to transition to multiple measures placement by providing detailed guidance on measures of placement and/or training and assistance on implementation.  There are several examples from the field:

  • Expertise: The University System of Georgia (USG), in collaboration with institutional leaders, developed a Mathematics Placement Index (MPI) and an English Placement Index (EPI) for student placement; the indexes are comprised of high school grade point average, SAT/ACT scores, and a placement test.
  • Staff: California State University campuses each have an Early Assessment Program (EAP) coordinator who provides training for math and English department faculty and the campus testing coordinator on use of the assessment for placement. The EAP coordinator also collaborates with feeder high schools to provide information to students on the EAP.
  • Technology: The North Carolina Community College System has been working in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to streamline accessibility of high school GPAs by automatically populating this measure in a statewide repository of high school transcripts, which would greatly reduce or eliminate manual transcript review.

Institutional supports: In other systems, much of the task of designing and implementing multiple measures reform falls to individual institutions. Several institutions have invested considerable resources to implement multiple measures placement. For example:

  • Expertise: At Brazosport College in Texas, administrators had already begun to implement new placement methods and holistic advising practices that took into account the past experiences and motivation levels of students when the state placement policy was unveiled.
  • Staff: At Washington’s Highline College, the administration decided to invest in staff to ease the process of multiple measures implementation through grant funding and resource reallocation. With the hiring of additional advisors, Highline is able to administer assessments, review other placement measures, and engage in individual placement advising for students.
  • Technology: At Ozark Technical Community College in Missouri, the administration developed an online self-guided placement process to help students determine what courses would be most appropriate for them, and they plan to refine the tool over time.

Lessons Learned

  • Technical assistance and guidance from the state on measures for placement and recommended cut scores can help ease the burden on individual intuitions. In particular, templates for data input and access to technology, such as document imaging systems for processing student transcripts electronically, may decrease barriers to implementation.
  • Campus investments in additional staff capacity within the relevant offices helps to ensure that placement reforms are implemented with fidelity. If reforms lead to better student placement, colleges may see these investments pay off in lower drop-out and higher completion rates over time.