Multiple Measures Assessment in a Corequisite Remediation Context

By Dan Cullinan

students take test in college classroom

The research is clear: Standardized tests are poor predictors of students’ ability to succeed in college-level courses. Single test placement systems lead many students to take developmental courses that they do not need and that hold them back. Experiments using multiple measures assessment (MMA) instead of a test-based system have shown that they help more students progress in college. And students bumped up from prerequisite developmental courses to college-level courses in an MMA system are more likely to complete college-level courses than similar students assigned to developmental education.

These studies, however, took place in a prerequisite remediation context, and more and more colleges are adopting corequisite remediation, wherein students take developmental courses alongside college-level support courses or are enrolled in college-level courses with embedded supports such as tutoring. Both corequisite remediation and MMA have been shown to get more students into college-level courses more quickly and to help more students pass those courses. But what happens when colleges use corequisites and MMA together?

In many cases, colleges that have adopted corequisite remediation are still using standardized tests to decide whether students require additional support or class time to succeed in college-level courses. Standardized tests may be poor predictors in this context, too, and they may force students into classes or supports that they do not need, costing students and colleges time and money. The tests may also misplace students who should be receiving additional supports. However, evidence has only recently emerged about how multiple measures can and should be used to place students in a corequisite environment.

The Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR), a partnership between MDRC and CCRC, has launched a new study on how placement recommendations using high school GPA and other measures can improve student success in college-level courses in a corequisite context, that is, when all placement recommendations include a college-level course, either alone or with corequisites. The study will answer these questions:

● What is the effect of multiple measures assessment and placement in a corequisite remediation model on completion of college-level math and English courses?

● What is the relationship between the characteristics of corequisite models and math and English course completion?

● Do effects vary by student demographic characteristics?

● What are the costs of implementing MMA in a corequisite context? What is the cost-effectiveness of MMA in this context?

Why Study Multiple Measures in a Corequisite Context

According to past research, there are two important determinants of developmental education’s effects on students:

1) Crowding out other courses, work, or leisure, as well as potentially using up financial aid by having to take the extra course, makes some students less likely to succeed in the college-level course. This is known as the displacement effect.

2) Benefitting from the additional supports offered in the developmental course improves the likelihood of success in the college-level course for some students. This is known as the achievement effect.

For students with high scores on multiple measures such as high school GPA but low placement test scores who are assigned to prerequisite remediation, there is little doubt that the displacement effect outweighs any achievement effect. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that examined this population found that, on average, immediate placement in the college-level course improved students’ likelihood of success in that college-level course for both math and English.

In the case of corequisite remediation, there is still some uncertainty as to whether the positive effects researchers have observed on student outcomes are due solely to the elimination of prerequisites (thereby lowering, if not eliminating, the displacement effect) or if these positive effects are partly generated by an achievement boost from the additional corequisite supports.

In either case, it is important to place students accurately to minimize the number of them who experience the displacement effect while maximizing the number who benefit from the achievement effect. Past research suggests that MMA may be better at this in both prerequisite and corequisite developmental education models.

About the New Study

In 2023, CAPR will partner with ten community colleges that currently offer corequisite courses on a new RCT of multiple measures placement in a corequisite environment. Research has shown that high school GPA has the most predictive utility in forecasting whether a student will succeed in college-level courses without supports; this study aims to examine the effect of the use of high school GPA for placement when corequisite remediation is the alternative. By introducing MMA systems that incorporate high school GPA or changing high school GPA thresholds if MMA is already in place, we will gain insight into whether students whose placements are changed by this intervention experience a larger achievement effect or a larger displacement effect from corequisite remediation.
To augment quantitative findings from the RCT, CAPR will collect implementation data on the corequisite remediation models at participating RCT colleges. Informed by recent studies of corequisite remediation, we will consider the following questions:

● How are study colleges implementing corequisites with regard to credit hours, faculty assignments, and class composition?

● Do these factors correlate with MMA impacts on completion of a college-level course?

● What are the costs associated with implementing these corequisite models?

To the extent that these characteristics of the corequisite model vary across colleges and correlate with impacts on college-level course completion, the study will provide insights into which components appear to have the most promise for student success. Ultimately, this study will provide colleges with valuable information to inform both corequisite remediation and corequisite placement design.