Expanding the Adoption of Multiple Measures Assessment and Building the Research Base

Students walk together on campus

January 2021–December 2024

Multiple measures assessment and placement (MMA) relies on performance metrics such as high school GPA and other transcript information, rather than a single standardized test, to determine whether students should be placed in college-level or developmental courses. MMA can increase the number of students who place into and succeed in college-level courses, but implementing it is a challenge in the best of times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed colleges to experiment with new and untested practices with little support. In this project, CAPR researchers are engaging states and colleges to help them adopt and scale effective MMA practices, expanding the field’s knowledge of which MMA practices are most effective for which types of students, and examining emerging practices that may warrant more rigorous research.

Project Design

Field Engagement and Scaling

CAPR is working intensively with two states to build their capacity to adopt and scale MMA placement systems. Researchers are also studying how these systems can be implemented given the widespread adoption of reforms, such as corequisite remediation and math pathways, that require different types of MMA criteria and information for placement. CAPR is also conducting implementation, cost, and descriptive research in the two states to provide the latest information on the affordability of different designs; document the best implementation practices in a diverse set of state and college contexts; and provide descriptive data analyses to further the field’s understanding of the relationship between placement systems and student outcomes.

Finally, CAPR will help states and colleges across the country adopt effective MMA systems that support more students’ placement into and success in college-level courses. Researchers will create resources to address critical gaps in policymakers’ and practitioners’ knowledge about successful MMA systems; help them consider what measures and placement criteria are important; and provide lessons on how MMA can be adopted in diverse institutional contexts. Toolkits, practice guides, research briefs, and interactive virtual learning sessions will be used to support the wider adoption of effective MMA practices nationally.

Knowledge Building

As part of this project, researchers are examining how MMA, in combination with other reforms, can improve outcomes for students of color, low-income students, and students who have not yet benefitted from colleges’ developmental education reforms. This work is framed around the following questions:

  1. What new practices are colleges adopting, such as informed self-placement (ISP), to place students into courses? What models are being implemented, and which show the most promise?
  2. What MMA criteria work for whom, and what groups of students are benefitting or not benefitting from these systems? Can MMA reduce the underplacement of students into developmental courses and help more students of color succeed in college-level courses? What are the long-term effects of MMA placement designs on students’ credit accumulation and graduation?

CAPR is examining the existing research evidence about emerging models of developmental placement, especially informed self-placement, and conducting a national scan of colleges’ current implementation practices and their potential promise for improving student outcomes. The research is focusing on the types of models being used, how they may be integrated with other reforms, and the correlation between these practices and student outcomes.

To identify which MMA criteria work for whom and to better understand the long-term effects of MMA placement designs on students’ outcomes, data from two random assignment studies of MMA is being combined to create a large database that can support the analysis of MMA’s effects for different student subgroups. The analysis will help identify practices that increase the number of Black and Latinx students that are placed into and complete college-level courses.

What We’ve Learned

A pair of briefs exploring informed self-placement was released in June 2022. The first brief outlines the existing research evidence on ISP and the second provides a taxonomy of various placement systems, shares descriptive data on course enrollment and completion, and identifies important equity and access considerations for states and institutions interested in implementing ISP.

In August 2022, CAPR released a brief that highlights promising strategies for addressing barriers to equitable access to and success in college-level courses. It draws on the research literature as well as examples from three colleges.

In late 2022, CAPR released a toolkit to help colleges implement multiple measures assessment and placement.

This research is funded by Ascendium Education Group.