Academic journal article High School Journal

Effect of High School Course-Taking and Grades on Passing a College Placement Test

Academic journal article High School Journal

Effect of High School Course-Taking and Grades on Passing a College Placement Test

Article excerpt

Transcripts of 19,736 students who consecutively attended Florida high schools for four years and graduated in the spring of 1994 were analyzed to determine how course choice, grades, tenth grade standardized test score results, race, and gender affected performance on a computerized placement test (CPT) administered upon entry to community college in the fall of 1994. A High School Performance (HSP) variable for math and English was constructed to account for differences in number of courses completed, degree of course difficulty, and course grade. Math and English HSP, 4-year cumulative grade point average (GPA), percentile rank on Grade Ten Assessment Test (GTAT) in math and reading, race and gender all had significant effects on the probability of passing the CPT. Math HSP had a larger positive effect on passing the Math CPT than GPA or GTAT. This was not the case for the Reading or Writing CPT subtests where GTAT had the larger effect and the magnitude of English HSP and GPA was about equal. Students can raise the probability of passing the Math CPT if they take more difficult math courses in high school, even at the expense of lowering their GPA.

Introduction

The unpreparedness of recent high school graduates to do college-level work, as measured by high failure rates on placement tests given on entry to community college, has aroused the ire of many state legislators who increasingly are reluctant to allocate funds for remediation classes of any kind (Ignash, 1997). Critics of public education frequently interpret these high failure rates and the subsequent proliferation of post-secondary "developmental education" courses as further evidence that secondary school curricula and standards have become unacceptably diluted. A recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 68% of 1992 high school graduates who enrolled in public 2-year institutions were not academically prepared (Berkner and Chavez, 1997). In Florida, 64% of the 1994-95 cohort of degree-seeking students who enrolled in the state's 28 community colleges through a policy of open-door admissions failed to pass all three sections (math, reading, and writing) of the computerized placement test (CPT). More than two years later (at the end of summer, 1996-97), 50% of the students who had been directed into remedial "college preparation" courses still had not successfully completed them (Florida State Board of Community Colleges, 1998). National longitudinal data show that at the end of five years, only 30% of community college students complete the associate degree (Cuccaro-Alamin, 1997).

This low completion rate has fueled critics' charges that unprepared high school students are not being effectively remediated in community college. They point out that the entry-level tests like the CPT benchmark the capacity to do first-year college work with acceptable performance on math, reading, and writing subtests set at the tenth grade level. In response, community college officials claim it is not feasible to correct major academic deficiencies within the time frame of one-semester developmental courses.

State departments of education have responded in several ways to make students and districts more accountable for the high percentage of high school graduates requiring post-secondary remediation courses. One strategy has been to raise the minimum GPA necessary to graduate high school. In Florida the minimum GPA necessary for earning the diploma has been raised from 1.5 to 2.0. Another policy change has been to increase the number of courses necessary to graduate. Florida now stipulates a minimum of 24 credits be accumulated for graduation, up from 20 credits 10 years ago. The increase is symptomatic of a nationwide trend toward higher graduation standards (Catterall & Moody, 1997). At the exit end of the pipeline, community college students are required to pass the CPT or complete remediation courses before they can be awarded the two-year associate degree. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.