Design, Sites, and Data Sources
This descriptive study is principally built around a nationally representative survey of nearly 1,700 institutions. Other important sources of evidence will include qualitative interviews with institutional and state-level representatives; information drawn from existing data and research; and a detailed analysis of developmental students at a large, multi-campus, for-profit institution.
This random assignment study evaluates a “data analytics” placement method whereby colleges use multiple measures to predict student performance in college-level math and English courses. In addition to placement test scores, these predictive measures may include high school GPA, high school course-taking patterns, and noncognitive assessments. Data on these measures will be used in a predictive model, developed in collaboration with the colleges. A decision rule can then be used to assign students to college-level math and English courses or developmental courses in math, reading, and writing.
Students entering participating colleges in the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2016 will be randomly assigned to be placed either: (1) using the new decision rule or (2) according to existing placement practices. Differences in later outcomes can then be attributed to the way in which students were placed. Students will be tracked for up to four semesters following placement to learn about their subsequent performance in college. The outcomes of primary interest will be completion of the first college-level courses in the relevant areas and total college-level credits earned.
The New Mathways Project
This random assignment study will use a research sample composed of approximately 2,000 students at four to six colleges in Texas who are assessed as in need of one or two levels of developmental math. Students who agree to participate and meet the study criteria will be randomly assigned into a treatment group that enters the yearlong New Mathways Project (NMP) program or into a control group that enters the colleges’ traditional developmental and college-level math sequence. Differences in later outcomes can then be attributed to this difference in type of developmental math course sequence.
Students will be followed for at least four semesters after their developmental math sequence assignment to learn about their subsequent performance in college. The outcomes of primary interest are completion of developmental and college-level math courses, average number of math credits earned, transfer to a four-year institution, and overall academic progress and course completion. This wide array of measures will give a more complete picture of students’ success in math, rather than of success only in passing the NMP courses.