Relationships Between Placement Decisions at a Community College and Measures of College Achievement and Persistence Open Access
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This study explored relationships between placement decisions in English and reading courses and measures of college achievement and persistence for first-time degree- and certificate-seeking community college students enrolled at a large, public, suburban-serving community college in Maryland. Archived records were examined for students who had at least one developmental math requirement and who did not have English as a second language status for four fall cohorts from 2003 to 2006. These students were followed longitudinally for up to 4 years from their initial dates of enrollment. In the study site, scores on reading and English were combined to determine developmental status. An important question addressed by this study was whether the downward adjustment of test score criteria reduced the number of students assigned to developmental coursework who would benefit from the extra academic support and associated restrictions. Chi-square tests and one-way analyses of variance were used to examine the relationships between placements and outcomes. Regression analysis was used to explore to what extent completion rates at the college were associated with racial/ethnic group, gender, enrollment status, and Pell grant status. The study found that students whose placement test scores were just below the cutoff to pass out of developmental reading and English who were assigned nondevelopmental status and who were provided additional curricular support in college-level English performed significantly better on indicators of student achievement than did their peers who placed just below the margin of preparedness for reading but who were assigned developmental status. The findings are also consistent with research reporting the overwhelming challenges facing students with extensive remedial needs in reading and English and documenting the failure of those students to overcome such obstacles. Future research is needed to explore ways to enhance academic achievement and persistence for students whose test scores indicate they are close to college readiness and to explore collaborative strategies between credit and continuing education programs designed to enhance opportunities for the weakest students to meet their goals within or outside of academia.