Embedding College Readiness Indicators in High School Curriculum and Assessments (page 3)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Aligning stand-alone voluntary assessments with college placement exams

Concerned with the number of college freshmen who need remedial English and math before going onto credit-bearing postsecondary coursework, California and Kentucky have developed high school assessments to determine students' readiness for college while there's still time to identify deficiencies and build essential skills before high school graduation.

California's Early Assessment Program -- piloted during the 2003-04 school year and first available to high school juniors statewide in spring 2004 -- is a voluntary supplement to the grade 11 mandatory California Standards Tests. Students can elect to take the exam in English language arts (reading and writing) and math. Students who score high enough on the math assessment are exempt from taking California State University's entry-level mathematics exam (lower-scoring students are partially-exempt or not exempt) and students scoring well on the language arts assessment may also be exempt from the CSU English placement exams. The CSU system maintains a Web site,, which provides students and high school teachers with diagnostic assessments and online instructional resources to help students meet CSU's placement benchmarks. The Early Assessment Program is a joint effort of the California Department of Education, the state board of education and California State University, which has set a goal of reducing remediation rates of incoming freshmen to 10% by fall 2007.4

Kentucky's Early Mathematics Testing Program is a collaborative effort of the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education that was first available in spring 2001. The program offers voluntary online math tests to high school sophomores and juniors. The exams are aligned with placement tests at state community and technical colleges and four- year public universities, and can be taken either at school or at home. Students can select up to three participating postsecondary institutions they are considering attending. The program generates students' scores as well as the following information for each institution: 1) A list of math courses required for the student's intended major 2) A list of any remedial courses the student might need to take based on the student's math skills as demonstrated on the test 3) The estimated cost of the remedial courses the student might need 4) The high school courses and specific math concepts or functions the student should study to target deficiencies. (KY REV. STAT. ANN. 158.803)

Administering state assessments with embedded/aligned college-ready items

The Texas Success Initiative (TSI), adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in December 2003, requires postsecondary institutions in the state to assess the academic skills of each entering undergraduate prior to the student's enrollment. The state recognizes students as college-ready who:

  • Achieve standard scores on traditional college placement tests such as the ACT, ASSET and COMPASS
  • Achieve standard scores on the College Board's ACCUPLACER and the Texas Higher Education Assessment (THEA)
  • Exceed a set standard on the reading, writing and math portions of the grade 11 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exit exam.

Scores are valid for a period of three years from the date of testing. (TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. 39.023, 19 TEX. ADMIN. CODE 4.51 through 4.60)

New Mexico passed legislation in 2003 that mandates high school curricula and end-of-course exams be aligned with the placement tests used by two- and four-year public postsecondary institutions in the state. The policy requires the state department of education and the commission on higher education to collaborate in achieving this goal. The work is currently in progress, led by a joint task force. According to the commission's Web site, The task force will make recommendations for adoption of a set of tests, a range of scores, and policy recommendations for a pilot phase to measure the effectiveness of student assessments as students prepare for postsecondary education. They will also define needed support services, early academic interventions, and better forms of academic diagnoses beginning as early as middle school years.5 (N.M. STAT. ANN. 22-2-8.11)

During the 2003-04 school year, four community colleges in Washington State piloted admissions/ placement policies that took into account the 10th grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) scores earned by students entering community college immediately after high school. The study looked at four sets of information: (1) WASL scores (by subject area); (2) high school course-taking in English and math, and the grades earned in these courses; (3) placement test scores by subject; and (4) students' grades in the first college-level English and math courses taken after enrolling in the colleges. The community colleges found that certain components of the English and math WASLs were the greatest predictors of grades in the first college courses in these subject areas. However, the sample sizes were small, the operation time-consuming, and implementation difficult, reinforcing the argument for a better and more coordinated statewide data system.

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