Researchers surveyed 225 students and interviewed eight students from Road Map Project region Community and Technical Colleges (Bellevue College, Highline College, Green River College, Renton Technical College, South Seattle College and Seattle Central College). Student surveys and interviews supplement a quantitative analysis of CCER’s longitudinal education data warehouse, which includes academic data for more than 40,000 students who graduated from Road Map region high schools between 2010–2017, and an analysis of Highline College administrative data into the long-term effects of recent changes to assessment and placement policies at that college.
Below are just some of the highlights from our research. We encourage you to read the full report for in-depth findings, as well as how these findings informed our recommendations.
Students of color are overrepresented in precollege courses.
Improvement efforts often begin with attempts to see the whole system and acknowledge that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets” (IHI 2015). In the context of CTC assessment and placement in the Road Map Project region, the results are clear: the system, which is purportedly designed to support students in course placement and degree attainment, produces racial inequity in precollege coursetaking for Road Map Project region high school graduates who enroll at local CTCs.
of all direct enrollees are students of color
of all direct enrollees who took at least one precollege English course are students of color
Students of color are disproportionately placed into precollege courses even when their high school transcripts make them eligible for college-level courses.
An analysis of current Road Map region CTC transcript-based placement policy criteria against students’ prior high school coursetaking and grades finds that 13 percent of students are underplaced into precollege English and 30 percent of students are being underplaced into precollege math.
Underplacement in English
Percent of students who met requirements for placement into college-level English, but ended up taking one or more precollege English courses.
2015-2018 award-seeking direct enrollees who were eligible for college-level English and took any English courses in college. Source: OSPI CEDARS student-level data and SBCTC data via ERDC.
Black/African American and Pacific Islander students were placed in precollege English when they had the cumulative high school GPA required for college-level English at their college.
Underplacement in Math
Percent of students who met requirements for placement into college-level math, but ended up taking one or more precollege math courses.
2015-2018 award-seeking direct enrollees who were eligible for college-level math and took any math course in college. *To protect student privacy, groups representing fewer than 10 students were omitted from results. Source: OSPI CEDARS student-level data and SBCTC data via ERDC.
Review the math data in a plain text format.
Black/African American, Pacific Islander, and Latinx students were placed in precollege math when they had the high school coursetaking and grades required for college-level math at their college.
"The first time that I took [the math placement test] I got math 98, Algebra, which I was not willing to take again, because I had already taken it in high school. In order for me to retake, I had to take 30 or 40 hours of online practice, which was time that I did not have to spare. Plus, I had to wait two years for the first test to be invalid.
I placed even lower at that point — I think it was 78. And I was like: 'I'm just going to have to take the class, because I can't waste any more time trying to do math,' because it was the last thing I needed.
[...] because the math placement placed me all the way to math 78, I was stuck there, and then stuck with another class that was very similar to it until I was able to take my 107 class. I ended up taking three to four math classes that I did not need because of the placement test."
Latinx Lake Washington School District graduate in a transfer pathway at Bellevue College.
Access to college courses is more dependent on which CTC a student attends rather than their previous coursetaking. Inequity in the K–12 system contributes to inequity in college placement outcomes.
The figure summarizes math placement outcomes in a hypothetical scenario in which all high school graduates in the Road Map region (a) enrolled at the same college and (b) were placed using their high school transcript under current placement policies at that college. This chart highlights multiple challenges that result from our region’s inconsistent and restrictive transcript-based placement policies for math:
Variation in the Availability of a Transcript Based Policy. When colleges accept transcripts from only selected districts, this has a direct impact on the student’s ability to use their transcripts for placement.
Variation in the Courses and Grades Considered for Placement. Colleges may accept transcripts from any district, but their placement criteria may not include courses that were accessible to students in their high school, or exclude grades below certain thresholds that disqualify students from using transcript-based placement.
Variation in College-Level Eligibility. Each college determines the criteria that meets college-level placement. This is typically defined by a combination of the high school math course taken, the grade received in the course, and when the course was taken.
Variation in Math Placement Outcomes Across CTC Transcript-Based Placement Policies
2014-2017 Road Map Project high school graduates (n=20,878). Based on transcript-based policies published on college websites as of January 2020. Excludes students who participated in Running Start, and those who didn't take a math course identified through any of the college policies. Renton Technical College is excluded from this analysis because it has no transcript-based placement policy posted on its website. Source: OSPI CEDARS student-level data.
Inequity in the K–12 system contributes to inequity in college placement outcomes.
In order to benefit from transcript-based placement policies, students must first be eligible to take advantage of those policies — i.e., they must have taken certain courses in high school or have a cumulative GPA that colleges consider valid as a part of their placement criteria. Students' ability to place into college-level courses under current transcript-based placement policies varies across racial/ethnic groups.
College-Level Math Placement Eligibility Among Direct Enrollees
Percent of students who met requirements to be placed into college-level math at the CTC they enrolled.
2015-2018 award-seeking direct enrollees. College-level math placement eligibility based upon transcript-based policies published on college websites as of January 2020. Excludes students who participated in Running Start. Renton Technical College is excluded from this analysis because it has no transcript-based placement policy posted on its website. Source: OSPI CEDARS student-level data and SBCTC data via ERDC.