At a time when more high schools are looking to their graduates' college-remediation rates as a clue to how well they prepare students for college and careers, new research findings suggest a significant portion of students who test into remedial classes don't actually need them.
Separate studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education come to the same conclusion: The way colleges are using standardized placement tests such as the College Board's Accuplacer, ACT's Compass, and others can misidentify students, and secondary schools and universities should work to develop a more comprehensive profile of students' strengths and weaknesses in performing college-level work.
The problem is coming to the fore as more states move to align their academic standards for college and career readiness with the Common Core State Standards and federal Race to the Top requirements and more high schools receive data on how their graduates are faring in colleges.
Thomas W. Brock, the new commissioner of the National Center for Education Research and a veteran higher education researcher, said improving remedial education has become a top research and policy concern. "It's a huge need," he said. "At many institutions, it's a majority of students coming in and being placed into developmental ed.—and this is where it starts to bleed into the financial-aid agenda, because they're using up valuable semesters of financial aid, which of course are not endless."
Gee, a College Board or ACT test can misidentify students and place them in course they don't actually need?
Who'd thunk that?
This not only has consequences for students and their financial aid, it also has consequences for the secondary schools they come from.
Here in NYC, the NYCDOE uses college remediation as proof positive that high schools are not properly preparing students for college.
Except that three separate studies tell us that maybe the tests themselves are garbage or the colleges are misusing the tests.
As one of the researchers noted:
"If you're working in community colleges, especially urban community colleges, you get used to those numbers," said Judith Scott-Clayton, an assistant professor of economics and education at Teachers College and an author of one study, which was published under the auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research and presented at last month's American Economics Association meeting in San Diego. "Remediation is the typical experience now."
"It's being used in some places for high school accountability, so this certainly raises a word of caution," said Ms. Scott-Clayton. "We can't just take the remediation rate as purely objective and without problems. Is this accountability gone awry?"
How shocking - College Board and ACT tests cannot be taken as objective truth and gospel.
So glad so many accountability measures are based on these things...