by Eboni Martin
It’s the beginning of a new school year and the second week of classes! This means that prior to the start of the new school year, lots of incoming students trickled through the Assessment and Testing Center to take an assessment test. Before starting classes, students are encouraged to take an assessment test in reading, writing, math, English as a Second Language (ESL), or chemistry. Assessment tests are important for placing students into classes at the right level. We recently released reports examining 2-year placement trends for incoming first-time/full-time students at both El Camino College (ECC) and El Camino College Compton Center (Compton Center).
The reading, writing, and math tests place students in a variety of levels depending on test performance. For this report, placements are grouped into categories of similarly-leveled courses. These groups are 1) transfer–level—courses that are equivalent to courses at a 4-year institution, 2) college–preparatory—courses that immediately precede transfer-level courses, and 3) basic skills—courses defined by ECC as basic skills courses (in most cases, more than one level below transfer).
The course in which a student is placed can be very important. A student placed into a transfer-level course begins several semesters closer to a degree or transfer than a student placed into a basic skills course. For example, a student who places into the most remedial math class offered at ECC (basic arithmetic) is three levels below degree credit and four levels before transfer credit courses. This translates to at least three terms of math before a student can take a course to satisfy the math requirement for a degree and four terms of math before the student can take transfer-level math.
At ECC, there are several interesting findings. First, there was a decrease in the number of students who took a placement test on-campus and subsequently enrolled at ECC in 2014. In comparison, there was an increase in the number of students who took an assessment test off-campus and subsequently enrolled at ECC in 2014. This may be due to the ongoing efforts of the college towards strengthening its relationship with feeder high schools and the community. Similar to the ECC main campus, there was also a decrease in the number of students who took a placement test on-campus and subsequently enrolled at Compton Center in 2014. This decrease may be due to students now having the option to assess off-campus.
Second, this report illustrates the disparate levels of college preparation that incoming students possess. As shown below, over the past two years at ECC, transfer-level placement rates varied widely between Reading (49%), Writing (41%), and Math (13%). At Compton, transfer-level placements rates also varied widely between Reading (31%), Writing (23%), and Math (2%).
Furthermore, the analysis by subgroup (ethnicity and gender) illustrated several examples of possible disproportionate impact. At El Camino College, women were less likely than men to be placed into transfer-level reading and math. As the following charts display, both African-American and Latino students at ECC were less likely than White students to be placed into transfer-level and more likely to be placed into basic skills reading, writing, and math. African-American and Latino students were also less likely than White students to be placed into English 1A.
At Compton Center, there was no evidence of disproportionate impact for African-American and Latino students on the reading or writing placement test. Additionally, disproportionate impact for African-American and Latino students could not be tested for on the math placement test because the reference group (White students) at Compton Center was too small. Although disproportionate impact was not found based on ethnicity, a large percentage of African-American and Latino students did place into basic skills reading and basic skills math.
To minimize disproportionate impact, ECC and Compton Center will continue to support programs aimed at increasing English and math achievement. For example, the Summer Math Academy (SMA) equips students who place into basic skills and college preparatory math with tools to help them succeed in their math courses. After completing the SMA, students are given the option to re-take the math placement test. More information can be found here: El Camino College SMA and Compton Center SMA.
These findings underscore the fact that ECC and Compton Center serve a student body with varied levels of college preparation. To read the full reports, as well as many other student outcomes reports, click here.