• Description

This report examines the assessment and course placement practices across California's community colleges for incoming students and recommends strategies for overall improvement.

Community colleges have processes in place for new student orientation, counseling, assessment, and course placement. Nonetheless, students, by and large, view their matriculation process as a one-shot deal—an isolated event that happens one day with minimal to no advance information.

Yet the assessment and placement process involves very high stakes for students and can negatively impact their future success. Course placement affects not only how quickly students can earn a certificate or degree—a factor affecting the cost of their program of study—but also their likelihood of completing a credential at all.

Drawing from quantitative analyses and interviews with counselors and students, the authors uncover substantial variance in assessment and placement policies statewide, as well as confusion among both students and counselors about the policies. The authors provide recommendations directed toward making assessment and placement part of overall diagnostic and learning processes that span high school and college.