February 2009, Volume 13, Number 2


Early testing improves academic success

Graphic image of test-taking

The best way to improve pass rates among students taking remedial math, composition and reading courses is to learn students’ weaknesses early on – while they are in high school if necessary.

That’s the push behind a recent Florida law requiring that public school districts and institutions like Miami Dade College make college placement tests available to high school students.

Senate Bill 1908 creates a new testing option for 11th graders who are interested in going to college but score at levels 2 and 3 in reading or at levels 2 through 4 in mathematics on the 10th grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

These students can now take Florida’s College Entry-Level Placement Test to learn their weaknesses early on, and colleges and public school districts will work together to develop high school remedial courses that mirror developmental classes already available on college campuses.

Students who score low on placement tests take those classes while earning their diplomas. After graduation, they will matriculate directly into the next appropriate course and earn their college degrees quicker than they would otherwise.

MDC has long supported early testing. Since July 1998, the College has offered high school students the option of taking the PASS exam, a practice version of the Computerized Placement Test or the CPT.

A recent MDC study found that students who take the PASS ultimately score higher on the subsequent CPT. These students also have a higher pass rate than students who do not take the PASS.

The largest score gains were seen in the college-level math, sentence skills and algebra subtests, suggesting that students were able to review these skills to obtain a higher CPT score. The subtest with the smallest score gain was reading, which arguably may be the least responsive to quick remediation.

One quarter or more of the students in each subject area increased their CPT score by more than 10 points after taking the PASS, likely resulting in placement into a higher-level course in the subject area.

Further analysis by age, ethnicity and gender showed slightly higher average score gains for older students, white non-Hispanic students, and for females in two of the three mathematics subtests.

— Gariot P. Louima

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Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
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Office of Equal Opportunity Programs/ADA Coordinator/Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577.