Responding to the concerns of students, parents, high school teachers and counselors, and state legislators, the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) has endorsed statewide placement and threshold scores for students enrolling in credit-bearing English courses at the post-secondary level. Representatives to MDHE’s Task Force on College and Career Readiness (TCCR), including administrators and faculty from private and public, two- and four-year institutions from across the state, spent two years analyzing data to determine appropriate scores on widely used assessment tools (e.g., ACT, Compass, Accuplacer, SAT). Public institutions in Missouri who use such assessment tools will be required to adhere to the state-wide scores for allowing students to enroll in credit-bearing courses. For example, any student earning an 18 or higher on the ACT cannot be directed into a remedial or developmental writing course for which college credit is not awarded.
More significant, though, than MDHE’s adoption of a statewide scores for placement into entry-level college courses is its endorsement of placement practices that involve “multiple measures.” Recognizing that no single assessment provides an accurate determination of a student’s abilities and potential, MDHE has urged institutions to take into account other data in assessing a student’s ability to succeed in an entry-level college English course, including high school GPA, scores on end-of-course exams administered in high schools, as well as local placement tools that individual institutions might develop. By using multiple measures to generate more nuanced portraits of the aptitudes and abilities of individual learners, colleges and universities can hope to avoid inappropriately directing students to remedial or developmental courses, which may slow or derail their pursuit of a college degree. Such a commitment to multiple measures aligns with the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement” (reaffirmed in November 2014), which stipulates that
One piece of writing—even if it is generated under the most desirable conditions—can never serve as an indicator of overall writing ability, particularly for high-stakes decisions. Ideally, writing ability must be assessed by more than one piece of writing, in more than one genre, written on different occasions, for different audiences, and responded to and evaluated by multiple readers as part of a substantial and sustained writing process.
Additionally, MDHE policy requires that public colleges and universities “be able to demonstrate the process used for placement decisions” and to “monitor the effectiveness of their placement matrix and, if necessary, adjust the matrix to improve the effectiveness of the placement.” Such a practice of continual self-assessment by post-secondary institutions again echoes CCCC’s position statement on writing assessment that establishes that placement processes themselves should be “continually assessed and revised in accord with course content and overall program goals.”
Full details on the work of the MDHE’s TCCR and its policies on placement practices that affect students as they transition into post-secondary institutions