- Colleges should use K-12 performance assessments like capstone papers or portfolios for student course placements and advising, according to a recent report.
- Typical methods of determining students’ placement in early college classes — like standardized tests — don’t fully illustrate their interests and academic potential, according to the report, which was published by postsecondary education access group Complete College America. Conversely, K-12 performance assessments ask students to demonstrate real-world skills, often in a way that ends with a tangible product.
- The organizations recommend colleges and K-12 schools mesh their processes, such as by mutually developing a high school graduation requirement around performance assessments. This would help strengthen the K-12 school-college relationship and ease students’ transition from high school to college, the report states.
College course placement has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as some institutions move away from remedial classes.
Remedial education helps burnish students’ skills in essential academic areas like math and reading. But remedial courses generally aren’t credit-bearing, sparking criticism that they are expensive undertakings for students that can derail their progress toward degrees and sap their federal financial aid.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom late last month signed a bill almost entirely banning remedial classes at the state’s community colleges. And in March, Louisiana’s public colleges similarly ended use of remedial coursework.
The report states that many students, particularly those enrolled in community colleges, don’t know course placement exams exist or that they could end up in remedial programs if they score poorly on them.
It encourages colleges to rely on K-12 performance assessments in lieu of standardized exams, saying they better demonstrate how students use academic and nonacademic talents “in authentic situations.”
This information could address the disadvantages students in racial minority groups can face in course placement, the report says.
Course placement decisions “and the factors that lead to them” can affect how college advisers help students, according to the report.
Advisers help construct students’ academic plans and connect them to other college departments, like financial aid.
“But too often advisers do not have the full picture they need to effectively guide these conversations,” the report says. “Without a more effective way to deliver evidence of learning and readiness, the college advising and placement processes will continue to overly rely on multiple-choice questions and essay prompts.”
To help break down these college success barriers, institutions and K-12 schools should start by integrating certain admissions processes, according to the report. Colleges and K-12 schools should more creatively communicate but avoid information overload on advisers who are already resource strapped, it states.
States and K-12 school districts could also consider introducing performance assessment requirements for high school graduation as a way to emphasize their importance over standardized testing, the report says. Creating further policy recommendations would require research on how using these assessments affects enrollment and retention.
“Moving to performance assessment as a key input for college placement and advising requires changes — not just in training, institutional interaction, and processes but in community-based dynamics and mindsets,” according to the report.