It's Not About the Cut Score: Redesigning Placement Assessment Policy to Improve Student Success


Publication Date: July 2008

Publisher: Jobs for the Future, Inc.

Author(s): Michael Lawrence Collins

Research Area: Education

Keywords: cut score; community college

Type: Report


Placement assessment policy, which governs how colleges assess the academic skills of entering students and place them in courses that are appropriate for their skill levels, can be an important lever for increasing student success in community colleges. A coherent policy would indicate which students must be assessed, specify assessment instruments, set cut score standards, and articulate procedures to be used uniformly across a state. Well-designed placement assessment policies also can help increase student success in a number of ways, and they can be used to help improve the college readiness of incoming students.

With these benefits in mind, many states are evaluating their placement assessment policies, or lack thereof. As they do, they are finding that setting placement assessment policy is not a simple process. This brief describes the experiences of Virginia, Connecticut, and North Carolina as they revised their placement assessment policies, explores current policies in all states, and makes recommendations for states that seek to evaluate and revise their policies. Virginia, Connecticut, and North Carolina all participate in Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, a multiyear, national initiative designed to help more community college students succeed--complete courses, earn certificates and earn degrees. The brief include a detailed resource guide on policies in Achieving the Dream states.