High school transcript placement in developmental mathematics courses: A case study at one college

Celisa Counterman 1, Linda R. Zientek 2 *
More Detail
1 Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA, USA
2 Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA
* Corresponding Author
EUR J SCI MATH ED, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp. 1-14. https://doi.org/10.30935/scimath/12430
OPEN ACCESS   158 Views   81 Downloads
Download Full Text (PDF)


Historically, college students who require remediation in mathematics have been placed into developmental mathematics courses. Accurate placement is important for student success; inaccurate placement in a low-level course could lengthen a students’ time to degree completion. Placement policies have tended to focus on a high-stakes placement test, but more holistic approaches have been recommended. This study investigated success outcomes for students placed with a holistic approach of evaluating high school transcripts. Students who were placed into one of three developmental mathematics by their high school transcript at a suburban community college in North-eastern United States were selected for this study. A non-experimental, retrospective research study was conducted. Archival data of students who took a developmental mathematics course from fall 2015 through spring 2019 and had a high school transcript on file were chosen for this study. Findings from chi-square analyses indicated that high school transcripts that consider mathematics course grades are a viable placement option for developmental math courses, particularly the two lower-levels. However, lower than desired success rates suggest that placement is only the first step to increasing student achievement. A lack of high school transcripts suggests some students would prefer to take a placement test, particularly for students in the upper-level course on a college algebra path. A challenge for community college advisors will be creating an equitable placement policy for students who do not have a recent high school transcript.


Counterman, C., & Zientek, L. R. (2023). High school transcript placement in developmental mathematics courses: A case study at one college. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 11(1), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.30935/scimath/12430


  • Bahr, P. R. (2008). Does mathematics remediation work? A comparative analysis of academic attainment among community college students. Research in Higher Education, 49, 420-450. https://doi:10.1007/s11162-008-9089-4
  • Bahr, P. R., Fagioli, L. P., Hetts, J., Hayward, C., Willett, T., Lamoree, D., Newell, M. A., Sorey, K., & Baker, R. B. (2019). Improving placement accuracy in California’s community colleges using multiple measures of high school achievement. Community College Review, 47(2), 178-211. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552119840705
  • Bailey, T., Jeong, D. W., & Cho, S. W. (2010). Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges. Economics of Education Review, 29(2), 255-270. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2009.09.002
  • Barnett, E. A., Bergman, P., Kopko, E., Reddy, V., Belfield, C. R., & Roy, S. (2018). Multiple measures placement using data analytics: An implementation and early impacts report. Center for the Analysis of Post-Secondary Readiness (CAPR).
  • Belfield, C. R., & Crosta, P. M. (2012). Predicting success in college: The importance of placement tests and high school transcripts. Columbia University Teacher’s College. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/predicting-success-placement-tests-transcripts.pdf
  • Boatman, A., & Long, B. T. (2018). Does remediation work for all students? How the effects of postsecondary remedial and developmental courses vary by level of academic preparation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 40(1), 29-58. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373717715708
  • Camara, W. (2013). Defining and measuring college and career readiness: A validation framework. Education Measurement: Issues and Practice, 32(4), 16-27. https://doi.org/10.1111/emip.12016
  • Cassady, J. C., & Johnson, R. E. (2002). Cognitive test anxiety and academic performance. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27(2), 270-295. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.2001.1094
  • Chen, X., & Simone, S. (2016). Remedial course taking at U.S. public 2- and 4-year institutions: Scope, experiences, and outcomes. National Center for Education Statistics, U. S. Department of Education. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016405.pdf
  • College Board. (2018). What’s on the tests? https://accuplacer.collegeboard.org/educators/whats-on-tests
  • Conley, D. T. (2010). Eligible and ready for college. Principal Leadership, 11(4), 18-22.
  • Demetriou, C., & Schmitz-Sciborski, A. (2011). Integration, motivation, strengths, and optimism: Retention theories past, present and future. In R. Hayes (Ed.), Proceedings of the 7th National Symposium on Student Retention (pp. 300-312). The University of Oklahoma.
  • Fay, M. P., Bickerstaff, S., & Hodara, M. (2013). Why students do not prepare for math placement exams: Student perspectives. Columbia University Teacher’s College. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/why-students-do-not-prepare.pdf
  • Fulton, B. A. (2016). The relationship between test anxiety and standardized test scores [Doctoral dissertation, Walden University].
  • Fulton, M. (2012). Using state policies to ensure effective assessment and placement in remedial education. Education Commission of the States.
  • Gerlaugh, K., Thompson, L., Boylan, H., & Davis, H. (2007). National study of developmental education II: Baseline data for community colleges. Research in Developmental Education, 20(4), 1-4.
  • Goeller, L. (2013). Developmental mathematics: Students’ perceptions of the placement process. Research & Teaching in Developmental Education, 30(1), 22-34.
  • Hilgoe, E., Brinkley, J., Hattingh, J., & Bernhardt, R. (2016). The effectiveness of the North Carolina early mathematics placement test in preparing high school students for college-level introductory mathematics courses. College Student Journal, 50(3), 369-377.
  • Hodara, M., Jaggars, S. S., & Karp, M. M. (2012, November). Improving developmental education assessment and placement: Lessons from community colleges across the country (CCRC Working Paper No. 51). Columbia University Teacher’s College.
  • Hughes, K., & Scott-Clayton, J. (2011). Assessing developmental assessment in community colleges. Community College Review, 39(4), 327-351. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552111426898
  • Kim, H. Y. (2017). Statistical notes for clinical researchers: Chi-squared test and Fisher’s exact test. Restorative Dentistry & Endodontics, 42(2), 152-155. https://doi.org/10.5395/rde.2017.42.2.152
  • Koch, B., Slate, J. R., & Moore, G. (2012). Perceptions of students in developmental classes. Community College Enterprise, 18(2), 62-82.
  • Lane, F.C., Zientek, L. R., Sechelski, A., & Shupp, S. (2020). Effects of timely enrollment in college-level mathematics on degree completion. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice. https://doi.org/10.1177/1521025120973949
  • Matthews, J. (2015). Schools are working to remove the placement test barrier to community college success. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/07/30/schools-are-working-to-remove-the-placement-test-barrier-to-community-college-success/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.cafffa6aab80
  • Morante, E. A. (2013). Assessment and placement: Integral components of student success [Paper presentation]. The Meeting of the National Association of Developmental Education Annual Conference.
  • Ngo, F., & Kwon, W. W. (2014). Using multiple measures to make math placement decisions: Implications for access and success in community colleges. Research in Higher Education, 56(5), 442-470. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-014-9352-9
  • Ngo, F., Chi, W. E., & Park, E. (2018). Mathematics course placement using holistic measures: Possibilities for community college students. Teachers College Record, 120(2), 1-42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0161468118120000205
  • Ngo, F., Velasquez, D., & Melguizo, T. (2021). Faculty perspectives on using high school data in an era of placement testing reform. Community College Review, 49(3), 290-313. https://doi.org/10.1177/00915521211002896
  • Rose, M. (2012). Back to school: Why everyone deserves a second chance at education. The New Press.
  • Roueche, J. E., & Baker, G. A. (1987). Access and excellence: The open-door college. AACJC Publications.
  • Roueche, J., & Roueche, S. (1994). Climbing out from between a rock and a hard place: Responding to the challenges of the at-risk student. League for Innovation in the Community College, 7(3), 1-4.
  • Rutschow, E. Z., & Mayer, A. K. (2018). Early findings from a national survey of developmental education practices. Research Brief. Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CPAR).
  • Safran, S., & Visher, M. G. (2010). Case studies of three community colleges: The policy and practice of assessing and placing students in developmental education courses. mdrc.org. https://www.mdrc.org/publication/case-studies-three-community-colleges
  • Saxon, D. P., & Morante, E. A. (2015). Student assessment and placement: Most colleges oversimplify the process. Research in Developmental Education, 26(2), 1-4.
  • Scott-Clayton, J. (2012). Do high-stakes placement exams predict college success? Community College Research Center. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/high-stakes-placement-exams-predict.html
  • Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent literature. Review of Educational Research, 45(1), 89-125. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543045001089
  • Tinto, V. (2002). Enhancing student persistence: Connecting the dots [paper presentation]. Optimizing the Nation’s Investment: Persistence and Success in Postsecondary Education.
  • Venezia, A., Bracco, K. R., & Nodine, T. (2010). One-shot deal? Students’ perceptions of assessment and course placement in California’s community colleges. WestEd. https://www.wested.org/resources/one-shot-deal-students-perceptions-of-assessment-and-course-placement-in-californias-community-colleges/
  • Zientek, L. R., Fong, C. J., & Phelps, J. (2019). Sources of mathematics self-efficacy of community college students enrolled in developmental mathematics. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(2), 183-200. https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2017.1357071
  • Zientek, L. R., Lane, F. C., Sechelski, A., & Shupp, S. (2022). Effects of delaying college-level mathematics course enrollment for remedial students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice, 24(2), 474-498. https://doi.org/10.1177/1521025120923113
  • Zientek, L. R., Yetkiner, Z. E., & Thompson, B. (2010). Characterizing the mathematics anxiety literature using confidence intervals as a literature review mechanism. The Journal of Educational Research, 103(6), 424-438. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220670903383093
  • Zinshteyn, M. (2016). Getting rid of placement exams. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/the-problem-with-college-placement-exams/472944/