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Final Report in Degrees of Freedom Series

I’m happy to share the third and final report in my series analyzing how math courses act as gatekeepers in higher education, Degrees of Freedom: Probing Math Placement Policies at California Colleges and Universities. As my piece in the Huffington Post underscores, this latest report reveals how current uses of college math placement tests may unfairly deny opportunities to students, particularly at community colleges. The report, published by LearningWorks and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), highlights recent research findings about the fairness and accuracy of placement testing and describes how some community colleges are re-thinking their placement policies. Because a majority of community college students nationally must take remedial math courses, such changes have implications for hundreds of thousands of students. While some education policymakers are trying to resolve this issue by improving students’ K-12 preparation, the report suggests that reformers would also be well advised to focus on the inadequacies of the remedial placement tests themselves. As discussed in my earlier two reports, some community college students are pursuing alternative pathways to completing their remedial math requirements. This final report raises questions about the policies that direct the majority of students to take remedial math sequences in the first place. It points out, for example, that community college students are more likely to be assigned to remedial courses than similarly qualified students attending broad-access four-year universities. I hope you enjoy reading the series and welcome you to share your comments below.

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