Working Paper

Case Studies of Three Community Colleges

The Policy and Practice of Assessing and Placing Students in Developmental Education Courses

| Stephanie Safran, Mary Visher

Among educators and policymakers, there is a burgeoning awareness that vast numbers of community college students around the country are unprepared for college-level work and hence referred to developmental education courses. To increase public discussion about developmental education, the Ford Foundation has expressed particular interest in better understanding how community colleges assess students for placement in remedial or college-level courses. MDRC conducted case studies at three community colleges to learn about each college’s placement policies and practices. Our case studies illustrate the routine policies and practices at each of the three colleges and highlight several issues and challenges, including a lack of consensus about the standard for college-level work, the high-stakes nature of the assessments, and the minimal relationship between assessment for placement and diagnosis for instruction.