In order to meet students where they are, and because of the wide variation in standards across different schools students may be coming from, it is important that students take CECP placement tests. The very high pass rate for classes taken at CECP is largely attributed to a continually-refined process of accurate class placement.
In the spirit of continually improving instruction and accuracy in class placement to maximize student learning, CECP has revamped its placement testing and class placement process for all new students. This ensures thoroughness in the screening process and accuracy in the class placement process at a level never before seen at CECP.
Anatomy of CECP’s Two Placement Tests:
- English: Students take the CCPT test for placement (Reading Comprehension, Essay). The essay grading rubric is designed for a more accurate class placement, and a policy was put in place requiring first semester 9th graders to be placed in a class no higher than ENG 090, with the opportunity to do ENG 121 the following semester. Over the years, we have received consistent and multiple comments not only from college-level English instructors but also from other college adjuncts teaching different subjects regarding the writing and critical thinking abilities of students who test directly into their classes, without having taken English 090 and mastered the skills taught in that class. Not only does the student struggle, but the whole class ends up slowing down when fundamentals need to be reviewed in college classes. The compromise that was reached was that incoming freshmen, in their first semester, would take English 090 in order to ensure foundational skills necessary for college classes. In their second semester, upon successful completion of the fall classes, they would be able to jump into college English and history classes.
- Math: Students take an internally-created and hand-graded math test, with very strict adherence to the cut scores. The CCPT, though more informative in the score breakdown than the Accuplacer, is still not thorough enough for accurate math placement. After all, the CCPT and the Accuplacer are only designed for college placement, not high school placement. Giving the test to students who are not college ready (e.g., who haven’t passed Geometry or Algebra I and II) is not accurately assessing them for mastery. Those tests ask questions that are not necessary for the class the student is testing into, and they lack questions that are necessary for the class the student is testing into. This necessitated the development of an internal test, one that asks all questions necessary for placement and doesn’t ask any questions not necessary for placement. These tests are fully aligned to the math progression leading up to the MAT 121 course through Arapahoe Community College (ACC). Using a college placement test to place students in high school classes previously led to inaccurate and insufficient data for placement; we were using a tool for something that wasn’t its intended use. The Math Internal Test (MIT) not only accurately places new students into classes, but it also specifically pinpoints gaps in their knowledge that are thoroughly addressed throughout the first semester by a Math Rx class, a skills class ensuring that new students are fully prepared to succeed in their following classes.
This whole discussion raises the question of college readiness. What does it mean to be “college ready”? CECP places students who demonstrate that they are college ready in college classes; that said, this all comes down to how one defines “college ready.” Is this simply a set of scores (one for Sentence Skills and one for Elementary Algebra), or does this encompass a lot more? And how is this determined? CECP considers “college ready” as mastery of fundamental material necessary for success in college classes; CECP’s mission of students “achiev(ing) mastery” demands more than two scores on a one-size-fits-all computer-graded placement test. CECP’s goal is to meet each student where they are and prepare them for college-level classes (not for college placement tests).
These tests—created by CECP teachers—specifically to align with the college prep sequence, which is designed to best prepare students for success when they get to their college classes. CECP teachers individually assesses every single new student’s placement tests and personally place each student exactly where they need to be. Computer-graded assessments alone do not provide an accurate picture of a student’s academic ability. Teacher-graded assessments and rubrics ensure the most accurate class placement in order to best prepare students for college-level classes.
Because classes at CECP are accelerated, semester-long classes, it is not unusual for new students to test into the same or lower level of English or math. This is in order to ensure that students are best prepared for college-level classes, with no gaps. Clear, transparent rubrics are provided for both English and math in giving an objective rationale for class placement.