Ensuring students are placed in the right courses is a vital component of increasing student success.
Back in 2014, TCC joined the Higher Learning Commission’s Persistence and Completion Academy with the goal of helping students advance to college-level coursework quicker by fine-tuning the College’s placement procedures. The team recently graduated from the academy, and its work has already had an impact on student success at the College.
“I am so proud of the work completed by the academy team, as they worked together to create a new process that uses multiple different types of measures to place students,” says Kevin David, provost and associate vice president for institutional effectiveness. “Although our academy participation fulfills our HLC requirement for implementing a quality improvement project, the more important benefit is that we expect our students to be placed into courses more accurately, setting them up for success at TCC.”
The academy team consisted of faculty from reading, writing and math developmental education, as well as from the first year experience seminar, ESL, concurrent enrollment and the tutoring centers. Advisors, testing staff, career services staff and registrar staff also participated. The team was led by Jenn Ivie, director of Institutional Research and Assessment, Vickie Robison, reading faculty, Hutch Hutchinson-Lytle, assistant director of advising and José Dela Cruz, dean of student affairs.
“I am most proud of how faculty, advisement and testing worked together to implement a testing process at TCC that informs students of the importance of the placement tests,” says Robison. “Working together is what made this process successful.”
The team’s initial focus was improving student persistence and completion through better entry-level assessment and placement of first-time entering students. TCC’s work focused on evaluating reading, writing, and math proficiency. Consideration was also given to test fatigue, which the team addressed by requiring students to take the math placement test on a separate day than the reading and writing placement test.
Changes are already having an impact on student success.
“I have personally seen a noticeable increase in accurate placement within my classes since these procedures were implemented,” says Robison. “With student abilities being more aligned, I am able to address the skills the students need more effectively.”
Participation in HLC’s Academy provided TCC the opportunity to develop a framework of processes that will be used to continually evaluate the effectiveness of the course placement process.
Academy participation also led to the development of the Placement Subcommittee, which will continue the work begun by the academy team. The new subcommittee’s next steps, which will be completed during the summer and fall of 2018, include:
- Evaluating data from the first full year of placement with new tests, multiple measures, and co-requisite courses in place.
- Evaluating the predictive ability of HS GPA among other measures.
- Examining equity gaps in the current placement scheme.
All the data compiled through the new processes will be analyzed through the lens of student success, and will take into account factors such as where students place – developmental education versus college-level courses – as well as student type (race/ethnicity, full-time/part-time, etc.) to ensure students have an equitable experience and are positioned for success.
Student course placement data will be shared with TCC’s Diversity Outreach Programs office to facilitate its outreach efforts with feeder high schools to assist with academic preparation for incoming TCC students.
“While we probably have yet to develop the best placement scheme, the work in the Academy helped us devise procedures that will ensure we are continually evaluating the effectiveness of our placement methods and requirements,” says Ivie. “Ultimately, this should help our students be more successful.”
TCC participates in HLC’s Open Pathway model of reaffirmation of accreditation. Open Pathways requires that institutions participate in a Quality Initiative during years five to nine of the ten-year accreditation cycle. TCC’s participation in HLC’s Persistence and Completion Academy is TCC’s Quality Initiative.