New Look at College Placement Policies

The head of JFYNetWorks has some thoughts on the buzz surrounding changing college placement standards and particularly the Accuplacer that determines assignment to credit or non-credit courses.

Gary Kaplan, executive director, of the Boston-based JFYNetWorks, issued a monograph examining recent proposals to replace the Accuplacer with other measures. These other measures could include attainment on certain levels of GPA, a score of proficient on the state’s MCAS or completion of the MassCore requirement of four years of math.

“Whatever the final outcome,” Kaplan concludes, “Accuplacer, PARCC, MCAS and GPA are only measuring tools. It’s what they measure that really matters: the skills of our students. And however we measure them, those skills are not equal to the demands of college or career.”

JFYNetWorks, founded as Jobs for Youth, knows what side its bread is buttered on. It is a certified College Board Accuplacer Institution, which administers the Accuplacer Diagnostics and helps students prepare for and pass the Accuplacer placements and avoid having to take remedial courses in college. The Accuplacer curriculum at JFYNetWorks individualizes instruction based on the student’s diagnostic test results. After a period of instruction, the Diagnostics is administered again to measure progress. When the Diagnostics show the student is ready, JFYNetWorks administers the Accuplacer Placement Tests.

NEBHE has been no stranger to these issues. NEBHE’s Winter 2006 Journal (then called Connection) focused issues in “college readiness,” ranging from efforts to align K-12 standards with college admissions requirements to grassroots initiatives aimed at helping urban and rural populations prepare for and succeed in college.

More recently, NEJHE has featured articles exploring remedial education, especially developmental math for students who never mastered algebra, or even arithmetic, in K-12. NEBHE senior consultant Stafford Peat has looked at aligning community college programs with the needs of local employers.

In 2012, NEBHE received a grant from the Lumina Foundation to pilot test the use of Khan Academy classes in 13 community college developmental math courses, Accuplacer Boot Camps and technical programs like nursing. While the results aren’t in yet, preliminary findings point to students seeing Khan Academy as a fun, challenging and effective way to learn math.


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