Any institution or department can ignore the recommendations of a national organization such as AMATYC. AMATYC has a bully pulpit, that is all.
In my experience, placement policies and standards are influenced by a variety of factors, most not controlled by faculty. In our state, the state board of education sets the placement scores for ACT, SAT, and COMPASS for courses that have a common numbering system (although not necessarily common content) across the state. Changing these scores is a political activity that is influenced by any perception that changing cut scores might reduce student enrollment. State support for higher education here depends on 10th day enrollment, not on retention and pass rates.
The reality of an efficient and affordable placement system -- efficient and affordable in that it can be administered and graded by computer on campus or at a testing site administered by an outside organization -- is that we hope for the most reliable instrument possible and then generally deal with misplacement on an individual basis. At our institution, we are able to insist on a face-to-face meeting with a designated member of the math faculty. No one else but the division chair is allowed to overrule placement.
Of course, there are multiple reasons for misplacement and failure, many of them not dependent on knowledge and mastery of mathematics. What is frankly amazing is that so many students are placed correctly based on a short test that permits different use of a calculator than we may allow in our classes.
Many developmental math students are under intense pressure to finish their academic work in the least time possible. In their past education, they may have learned that the main criteria to earn a passing grade was to show up and behave. They often do not recognize the importance of prerequisite knowledge and they often believe that if they resolve to try hard, that will be sufficient. It is no wonder that they often want to attempt classes that they are not prepared for and that they tend to disappear when they fail, rather than trying to identify or face what went wrong.
Laura Bracken Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics email@example.com 208-792-2484 ________________________________________ From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] On Behalf Of Clyde Greeno @ MALEI [firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:32 AM To: Beth Edmonds; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: email@example.com; Buller, Connie; Coe, William Subject: Re: Questkion about Expiration Date on Courses > course readiness tests
Beth et al:
Thanks for sharing the draft.
The envisioned paper appears to be a recommendation for what colleges "should" do ... in a way that does not seem to open the gate for AMATYC to later follow through in any worthy way. Position papers of that kind are easily ignored ... which does more to diminish AMATYC's influence than to enhance it.
By focusing on time lapses, that statement appears to proffer a degree of progress toward reducing one possible factor in a very serious, but much more comprehensive dilemma.
The underlying and central issue is that, for most collegiate courses in mathematics, legitimate scholastic success (I.e. earning scores, grades, and credits ... in contrast to using pleas, bribes, tears, etc.) requires that the student *own* a certain body of knowledge and powers *before* entering the course. The horrendous rate of non-success is largely due to students enrolling in courses for which they are under-prepared at the time of entry.
Allowing under-prepared students to enroll in the course is a gross disservice to them. If they flounder, the experience will undermine their confidence, hopes, aspirations, and potentials ... if not their wallets. It could drastically affect their financial aid. It certainly affects the rate of retention.
Allowing such enrollment also is a misappropriation of precious funds. Even when students pay full tuition, that amount normally does not come close to covering the costs of serving the student. In that sense, someone else is paying the rest of the bill ... as a de facto "scholarship" for anyone who enrolls. The resulting monetary waste at some colleges is large enough to warrant federal investigation. Would the college lose money by screening its math students? Probably not ... most would enroll in the lower courses ... be successful, and then continue.
The draft attends only one possible cause for such under-preparedness ... the time lapse. Apparently, the assertion that time lapse is a major contributor to under-preparedness is far more a matter of conjecture than of evidence.
There are other possible causes of under-preparedness that are just as worthy of attention. The list of possible causes might be rather lengthy ... especially if carried out with any attempt at precise details.
Trying to address one, some, or all of the causes for under-preparedness ignores the crux of the dilemma. The central problem is of how best to reduce the rate of enrollment of students who are under-prepared.
It is worse than wasteful for AMATYC to monkey around on the perimeter of major issues. Trying to "correct" something that might or might not be an important cause is a straw man. But its pursuit also undermines the potential effectiveness of future efforts to cope with more substantial problems.
Far better if the AMATYC Committee would broaden its scope so as to more directly address the fundamental issue (rather than one of its possible causes): what are the ills of allowing under-prepared students to enroll in a math class ... and what mechanisms might better ensure that students are duly prepared for courses in which they enroll.
The substance of the draft might thus be incorporated into the greater document. Moreover, that would open the door for AMATYC take several kinds of follow through actions ... including funded projects.
From: Beth Edmonds<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:09 AM To: Clyde Greeno @ MALEI<mailto:email@example.com> ; firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> ; Buller, Connie<mailto:CBuller@mccneb.edu> ; Coe, William<mailto:William.Coe@montgomerycollege.edu> Subject: RE: Questkion about Expiration Date on Courses > course readiness tests
Amanda, Clyde, and Peter;
Connie Buller sent me a copy of the draft statement for the AMATYC position statement on time limits and I have attached it to this email. I am interested to hear any comments you have on the statement but also on the topic of this thread which was Amanda?s original query.
I also need to correct I mistake. Because I was communicating about another topic in another thread which included Jim Ham yesterday, I mistakenly told you it was he that was composing the statement. It was/is Bill Coe whom I have CC?d for this email. I apologize for the mistake.
Beth A. Edmonds Associate Professor of Mathematics Johnson County Community College 913-469-8500 ext 4783
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