Daniel Pollock, Reporter
New students applying to Pierce College will not take the Compass placement test. Due to issues found with the previously-used assessment, such as inaccurate placement results, the college has stepped away. Math and reading placement now use College Board’s Accuplacer, but for the English department, things are more involved.
A group of Pierce faculty, including English professors Corrina Wycoff, Alison Walker-Stromdahl and Way Jeng are personalizing an assessment for the college.
Pierce has chosen to use a model of Directed Self Placement, meaning placement results only suggest which level of English a student should take. Even if the test suggests a student should enroll in English 98, they’ll still have the option to choose English 101.
Jeng said because DSP isn’t graded, it removes the “beat the test” mentality a student might have and it gives students more freedom.
“(DSP) is really more like a conversation,” Jeng said. “We want to take the placement model and make it transparent and open and, more than anything else, we want to make it fair.”
DSP involves several parts. According to Walker- Stromdahl, the first part asks students to enter all test scores they have, such as a high school GPA and SAT or ACT scores. The student is given suggested English placement levels based on their different scores.
In the second step, students are given a reading prompt and then answer several questions based on the reading.
“That whole reading and essay piece doesn’t get scored by outside scorers. It’s for you to see how you did,” Wycoff said.
The level of the prompt is equivalent to what student writing expectations are at the end of an English 99 class, Wycoff said.
Students are asked a series of questions in the third section, asking the student how they feel about their reading comprehension and writing abilities. The questions also ask about the student’s resiliency, learning strategies and determination. Based on their answers, the students are once again given suggested placement levels.
Step four describes English classes 98, 99 and 101 to give the student a fuller understanding of what each level demands. Respective Pierce faculty from each of these classes will write these descriptions.
Walker-Stromdahl said data has been released comparing traditional placement assessments, such as Compass, with DSP results.
“Students are doing just as well, or better, in terms of retention in the directed self placement,” Walker- Stromdahl said.
Jeng added that, with DSP, more students complete the class in which they chose to enroll and student satisfaction is higher when using DSP.
“Even if a student winds up in a class that they don’t succeed in, they have higher levels of satisfaction after that experience because they (put themselves) there, as opposed to some test putting them there,” Wycoff said.
Many schools have already started using DSP. The faculty hopes DSP will be implemented next year.
“A lot of schools, especially in western Washington, (have) already implemented this,” Walker-Stromdahl said. “There is a wave of this taking hold and people seeing that it is working.”
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