The Accuplacer is a College Board product, like the SAT and PSAT. The latter are well-known to students, and an entire industry is built around preparing them to take these exams. Unlike the SAT and PSAT, however, most students first learn about the Accuplacer exam when they arrive at public community and 4-year colleges, and then take the suite of tests “cold”, i.e. without preparation. The Accuplacer is used to place students in college courses appropriate for their level of skill. Nationally, approximately 60% of students score below the threshold required for credit-bearing college-level courses and are subsequently placed in non-credit developmental (remedial) courses. At CRLS, 1/3 of juniors were identified as being at risk of failing the Accuplacer exam on the basis of their PSAT scores, and among those, 84% needed at least one developmental math course and 60% at least one developmental reading course.
By partnering with a non-profit that is approved by the College Board to administer the tests, ITAV students take an initial diagnostic assessment and, with the help of Cambridge School Volunteers and FOCRLS volunteers, receive individualized remediation and skill-building that will enable them to place successfully into college level courses, thereby increasing their chances for persistence and completion, and enabling the best use of their tuition dollars – earning credits toward graduation.
What has been accomplished so far?
The first ITAV Accuplacer workshop was launched in June 2012, with successful external foundation fundraising. Organized by FOCRLS, a pilot group of 14 CRLS students entering UMass-Boston or one of the Massachusetts community colleges in the fall (Bunker Hill, Middlesex, Framingham State) participated in an innovative workshop designed to improve student performance on the Accuplacer college placement examination. The pilot project was a great success, far exceeding its more modest goals. Among participating students who initially placed into developmental-level courses, 76% advanced one level or more toward college level, and 52% placed out of developmental level courses entirely. With partner JFYNet, a certified College Board Accuplacer exam administrator, these students received certified test score reports to present to their college registrars in September.
With a second round of successful external foundation and other fundraising, the ITAV project was able to accommodate even more students. Among the 33 students who attended our June 2013 workshop, 70% of developmental classes were eliminated and nearly 1/3 of the students tested completely out of developmental classes. In addition, these funds support a part-time mentorship coordinator and an embedded counselor at UMass-Boston who directs his outreach to the recent CRLS alumni on campus.
$100 gift cards to their college bookstores were awarded to all CRLS alumni who completed the Accuplacer workshops.
Students receive Accuplacer test training at a June 2014 ITAV workshop.
“I honestly found this program very helpful. I really struggled with Algebra specifically and got the help I needed to pass it. I think it is a great opportunity because you are offered the help you need. … every student was given the amount of attention and help they needed to succeed. For future reference I would suggest maybe getting the word about the program out there a little more, a lot of students were unaware of this opportunity. Thank you to everyone who was in charge of putting this together because I feel it will definitely have an impact on all of our futures in some way.” –Student participant in June 2012 Accuplacer Workshop.