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National State and System Policy Scan Methodology

Research for Action conducted a national policy scan to determine whether and how states and two- and four-year postsecondary systems use multiple measures to place students. Three data collection methods were used:

  • Survey: Based on previous research on multiple measures policies, an online survey was developed and then administered between June and July 2015 to identify postsecondary systems across the country with such policies. Systems that did not initially respond to the survey received at least two email and telephone follow-ups. For systems where a respondent still could not be reached, initial document reviews were conducted to develop an understanding of relevant policy. In all, RFA examined 69 postsecondary systems across all 50 states through the online survey. Once states and systems with a multiple measures policy were identified, additional research activities were conducted.[1]
  • Document Analysis: A more extensive review of policy documents was conducted in each of the states with a multiple measures policy either in place or being piloted. Documents included statute, regulation, system policy guidelines (e.g., academic and student affairs handbooks), and agreements across multiple institutions within a state.
  • Telephone Interviews: Interviews with state and system postsecondary policymakers from states with a multiple measures policy in place or in the pilot stage were conducted between September and November 2015 to verify survey data and expand our understanding of policies. In all, nearly 30 interviews were conducted.

In the summer of 2016, draft profiles for each of the systems with multiple measures policies were sent to the contacts in each of the states or systems for verification and updating. The data shared in this toolkit reflects the information verified by all but three of the systems.

Institutional Research Methodology

Research for Action (RFA) conducted site visits in the spring of 2016 at eight postsecondary institutions across eight states/systems with multiple measures policies. Sites were selected to represent both the two and four year sectors and different regions of the country, the range of measures used for placement and the continuum of state and system multiple measures policy typologies; each of these institutional characteristics will be discussed in this report. Table 2 lists the institutions included in the field work.

Table 2: Institutional Field Work Sites

Institution State Sector Enrollment[2]
Brazosport College (BC) Texas 2 Year 4,221
California State University – San Marcos (CSU-SM) California 4 Year 12,793
College of Coastal Georgia (CCGA) Georgia 4 Year 3,131
Davidson County Community College (DCCC) North Carolina 2 Year 3,797
Highline College (HC) Washington 2 Year 16,917
Kent State University – Stark (KSU) Ohio 4 Year 4,639
Middlesex Community College (MCC) Massachusetts 2 Year 9,205
Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) Missouri 2 year 13,614


Each of the campuses provides different examples of multiple measures implementation. The collective experiences of these campuses paint a picture of the diverse range of implementation approaches and challenges:

  • Working within Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Assessment requirements, Brazosport College (BC) set a “bubble” range for students beneath the state determined cut score, and guided these students through a holistic placement process to determine their course placement.
  • California State University – San Marcos (CSU-SM) provides an example of a system supported placement policy that is integrated into state high schools beginning in the 11th grade and includes Early Start summer programming.
  • The College of Coastal Georgia’s (CCGA) placement index combines high school GPA, SAT/ACT scores and placement test results and offers an example of how a complex placement formula can be successfully implemented as a result of a joint effort between institutions and the system office.
  • Davidson County Community College (DCCC) speaks to the experience of the first institution in the North Carolina Community College System to implement the centrally developed multiple measures placement policy and offers early student outcomes.
  • Highline College (HC) provides an example of the type of placement innovation that can take place on an individual campus in a state that provides considerable institutional autonomy in the development of a multiple measures placement policy.
  • In the context of Ohio’s “remediation-free” standards, Kent State University (KSU) – Stark used the flexibility in the policy to include additional measures in their placement process.
  • Middlesex Community College (MCC) piloted the use of high school GPA in student placement decisions for math courses, initially following state recommended cut scores but eventually adjusting cut scores based on early internal data.
  • Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) decided to allow students to take the lead in determining their course placement through a voluntary, self-directed online process that provided students with course descriptions and guiding questions designed to help them assess their own college readiness.

Site visits included interviews with administrators and faculty members involved in the student placement process, as well as student focus groups and document review. Once the site visits were completed, profiles were developed describing the implementation of multiple measures on each campus, highlighting the measures and placement process, as well as promising practices, challenges and issues with implementation. The profiles were reviewed and verified by the institutions.

[1] While in some cases multiple data sources were used for a given system, 60 percent of systems provided data through the survey (41 systems). The remaining data collected was based on document review (21 percent (15 systems)), or through phone and email contact (19 percent (13 systems)).

[2] Fall 2015 enrollment data based on NCES College Navigator.