Research in Higher Education

, Volume 56, Issue 5, pp 442–470 | Cite as

Using Multiple Measures to Make Math Placement Decisions: Implications for Access and Success in Community Colleges

  • Federick Ngo
  • William W. Kwon


Community college students are often placed in developmental math courses based on the results of a single placement test. However, concerns about accurate placement have recently led states and colleges across the country to consider using other measures to inform placement decisions. While the relationships between college outcomes and such measures as high school GPA, prior math achievement, and noncognitive measures are well-known, there is little research that examines whether using these measures for course placement improves placement decisions. We provide evidence from California, where community colleges are required to use multiple measures, and examine whether this practice increases access and success in college-level courses. Using data from the Los Angeles Community College District, we find that students who were placed into higher-level math due to multiple measures (e.g., GPA and prior math background) performed no differently from their higher scoring peers in terms of passing rates and long-term credit completion. The findings suggest that community colleges can improve placement accuracy in developmental math and increase access to higher-level courses by considering multiple measures of student preparedness in their placement rules.


Community colleges Assessment and placement Developmental math Multiple measures Validation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rossier School of EducationUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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