How California Community Colleges Can Improve Accuracy of Placement in English and Math Courses, Reduce Remediation Rates, and Improve Student Success

Nationally, approximately two-thirds of students attending community college are identified as unprepared for college-level academics and are assigned to pre-college remedial (also known as developmental) courses. Remediation rates are even higher among students of color. The majority of these students leave college before ever attempting a college-level course in English or mathematics. New evidence suggests that many students placed into remedial coursework would have been able to succeed in college-level courses without remediation.

In California and elsewhere, community colleges are changing assessment and placement practices to reduce unnecessary remediation and improve college success. Emergent research has cast doubt on the predictive value of placement exams to determine preparedness for college, suggesting that their traditional use may actually constitute a barrier to college completion.

This brief summarizes key research findings of use to community college practitioners interested in rethinking assessment and placement practices. It explores the use of multiple measures for improving placement—a strategy that is supported by evidence, has traction in the field, and has the potential to both lower remediation and maintain student success rates in college courses.

Mina Dadgar, Linda Collins, and Kathleen Schaefer
March 2015