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From the Abstract: "This Brief examines the role of developmental assessment, the validity of the most common assessments currently in use, and emerging directions in assessment policy and practice. Alternative methods of assessment—particularly those involving multiple measures of student preparedness—seem to have the potential to improve student outcomes, but more research is needed to determine what type of change in assessment and placement policy might improve persistence and graduation rates. The Brief concludes with a discussion of implications for policy and research." Amongst the conclusions: "The student assessments most commonly in use (COMPASS and ACCUPLACER) seem to be reasonably valid predictors of students’ grades in college-level courses, at least in math when students are expected to earn a B or higher in the target course… the placement recommendations generated by these tests do not clearly improve student outcomes. This suggests a mismatch between interventions and assessments. Alternative approaches to assessment may have the potential to improve student outcomes…"
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Carnegie Senior Partner Jim Stigler and colleagues Karen B. Givvin and Belinda J. Thompson from the University of California, Los Angeles were commissioned by Carnegie to investigate what community college developmental mathematics students understand about mathematics and how we might help turn around the alarming statistics that show that an enormous number of those students drop out of college because they aren’t successful in math courses. "An assumption we make in this report is that substantive improvements in mathematics learning will not occur unless we can succeed in transforming the way mathematics is taught," the authors write. "In particular, we are interested in exploring the hypothesis that these students who have failed to learn mathematics in a deep and lasting way up to this point might be able to do so if we can convince them, first, that mathematics makes sense, and then provide them with the tools and opportunities to think and reason."
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Jim Stigler's presentation to faculty at a Statway winter 2011 institute sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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