AMATYC recommends that all two-year colleges develop procedures for the initial placement of two-year college students into the mathematics curriculum. The placement process should determine the highest level of mathematics appropriate to students’ educational goals at which they have the prerequisite knowledge to be successful. The criteria used to determine mathematics placement should be based on the goals of the mathematics program. Crossroads in Mathematics: Standards for Introductory College Mathematics Before Calculus states that placement tests should provide a measure of students’ abilities not only to show mastery of algorithmic skills but also to think critically and solve problems (AMATYC, 1995).
A college placement team, led by faculty from the mathematics department, should develop policies and procedures to be used for the placement of all two-year college students entering the mathematics curriculum. These procedures should be applied equitably to all students and use an analysis of multiple measures, which may include:
- High school and college records
- Scores on college entrance examinations
- Scores on placement tests
In addition, student success can be impacted by less quantifiable factors such as motivation; family and work obligations; special student needs; and educational, career, and personal goals. These may also be factors to consider. In all cases, the placement team should make the final decision regarding placement based on an analysis of multiple measures.
All those involved in the testing, advising, and placement of students into the mathematics curriculum should be well versed in the elements of the program. Appropriate staff, facilities, and equipment are essential to the success of the program. It is the responsibility of the college to advise students on policies, procedures, and implications of the placement program prior to enrollment. Opportunities to prepare for the placement test should be provided by the college, and information regarding these opportunities should be disseminated to all students prior to placement testing.
Evaluation of the placement process should be ongoing. Colleges should validate their placement tests and procedures used for initial placement into the mathematics curriculum. Colleges must continually assess placement procedures as content, pedagogy, and technological changes occur which affect the community college mathematics curriculum. Placement procedures must not be used to restrict access to a college education, but rather to ensure that all students who enroll in a mathematics course have the opportunity to achieve success.