Wednesday, May 06, 2015


A Multi-Part Question About Florida

Last year, Florida made remediation optional.  Students could be advised that it appeared that they needed remedial or developmental coursework, but they couldn’t be required to take it.  They had to be given the option to skip it and start directly with college level work in both math and English.

Since then, I’ve seen literally nothing about the results. I’m hoping that some of my wise and worldly readers -- perhaps especially those in the sunshine state -- can shed some light.

What happened?  More specifically:

In percentage terms, how many students chose to take developmental coursework voluntarily?

Of those who went directly into college-level math or English, how did they fare?  Were their pass rates comparable to students who “placed” there originally?  

Since the change took place last Fall, how did the Fall-to-Spring retention rates change?  Or did they?  

What percentage of students who took the “skip it” option found themselves hopelessly overmatched in college-level classes, and voluntarily switched levels downward?

Florida has such a large community college student population that it makes a great data set, and the intervening variable -- a change in the law -- is really easy to isolate.  It’s a potentially valuable test case for the rest of us.

If Florida’s results show strongly that, say, student self-placements are far more accurate than placement tests, that would have implications for placement policies.  Alternately, if the sudden influx of low-scoring students into college-level classes resulted in catastrophic attrition, that would be good to know, too.

I know it’s relatively early, and some of the data could be “noisy” for various reasons.  But still, we should have a pretty good picture of the first semester’s results by now.  An open question yesterday on Twitter yielded no answers, so I’ll try the longform approach.

Does anybody know? Has anything good been published yet on this?

First, your description of the effect of the law is not completely accurate. The exemption only applies to graduates of Florida public schools who had passed the state's exit exam after a certain date, plus active duty members of the military. Graduates of private schools or those with a GED or those from other states are still bound by the placement test.

Second, they were not required to take the usual placement test, although some do so voluntarily, so advising is based on SAT or ACT scores (if they had them) and their HS transcript. This has to be done by full-time advisors, not faculty, and students who choose the exemption must sign off on a form that reminds them of the cost of failing a class they might not be ready for.

The rule that they could not be forced to take the placement test, even if only for advising purposes, means they didn't gather a statistically sound set of data that could have tracked the success of students as a function of placement score. Big loss for people in other states, not to mention people doing PhD ed research.

Third, sane heads prevailed during rule making and they could not exempt themselves all the way into college algebra. Students who need college algebra still need to take intermediate algebra, which is not considered "college level" math.

Finally, a number of other changes (like shorter or self-paced remediation) were implemented at the same time. That alone might complicate the data analysis.

There are no official results that any of us have heard about. I would speculate that individual college results will be (or are being) aggregated into a state-wide reprort before they are released. The could, however, be waiting on Spring data.

Rumors are that fewer exempted math than english and reading, as you might have guessed. Facts are that the developmental departments are but a shadow of their former selves.

There are semi-official rumors that the results are not what the legislature expected, but that really means nothing. You could, for example, have a higher failure rate in english but still have a higher cumulative pass rate than if they had to run the dev ed marathon before taking english. It would take more than a semester to see that in the data.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?