Assessing Developmental Assessment in Community Colleges

Thispaper argues that the debate about remediation policy is incomplete without a fuller understanding of the role of assessment.

Hughes, K.L
Scott-Clayton, J.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

Placement exams are high-stakes assessments that determine many students’ college trajectories. More than half of entering students at community colleges are placed into developmental education in at least one subject, based primarily on scores from these assessments, yet recent research fails to find evidence that placement into remediation improves student outcomes.

While this has spurred debate about the content and delivery of remedial coursework, another possibility is that the assessment process itself may be broken. In this paper we argue that the debate about remediation policy is incomplete without a fuller understanding of the role of assessment. We then examine 1) the extent of consensus regarding the role of developmental assessment and how it is best implemented, 2) the validity of the most common assessments currently in use, and 3) emerging directions in assessment policy and practice. We conclude with a discussion of gaps in the literature and potential implications for policy and research.

Benefits and Uses

Assessments are used to predict student achievement in post-secondary schooling and to place students for success. The population taking these tests is categorized largely as Adult Ed. Assessments such as COMPASS and ACCUPLACER prove to be reasonable predictors of achievement; they are not placing the students in any way that yields greater success. The results of this paper can be used to inform policies to increase success of adult student that are enrolling in postsecondary educational programs.

This resource was reviewed and vetted through the Policy to Performance: Transitioning Adults to Opportunity initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education under Contract No. ED-04-CO-0051/0007.

What the experts say

"This resource is not directed toward adult education, even for those who are preparing their students to take the Accuplacer or Compass tests as it does not detail what is in these tests.  Instead the report examines the process of testing into developmental classes in a community college and whether this process has a positive effect on student success and retention.”

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