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Cuesta implements new process for class placement

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Students exit the Cuesta library lobby, where assessment testing takes place.
Photo by Hakkun1/Creative Commons


By Sue Carmichael
Staff Writer

Cuesta recently launched a placement program, which grants students access to higher English and math courses unlike the previous assessment test scores.

The new program, Multiple Measure Placement, acknowledges multiple factors that more accurately place students in non-remedial courses.

Cuesta decided to introduce MMP “due to the large body of work illustrating that Multiple Measures Assessment Project is an effective and equitable way to place students,” said Erin Lastreto, Cuesta’s director of assessment services.

Cuesta first year student, Ella Yates, said she feels that she was under-placed due to the previous placement strategy.

“I was in pre-calc in high school and now I’m in intermediate algebra,” Yates said.

The changes from implementing the MMP also impact the admission application to Cuesta which triggers course placement results.

Eight high school transcript questions were incorporated into the CCCApply.

Placement rules were programmed to populate placement results automatically, and are usually available within 24 hours via myCuesta email.

“Current students that have not yet assessed or students that incorrectly filled out the admission application can request an MMP,” Lastreto said.

The following predictors of student success are now considered within the MMP.

For math: cumulative GPA, grades in Algebra I/II, Statistics, Trigonometry or Calculus and recency.

For English: cumulative GPA, and English or AP English grade.

Qualifications for Students are required to have a high school diploma or an equivalent within 10 years to receive an MMP; or concurrently enrolled in the 12th grade and Cuesta; and questions fully answered on the CCCApply.

There are exemptions, however.

Students who have already received an associate degree or higher. Students can take Cuesta’s placement exam or earn the “Standard Exceeded” status on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System.

Students must pass the AP English Language or Literature Composition Exam or pass the AP Calculus or Statistics exam with a score of 3 or above or by submitting a transcript from another college or university showing a “C” or better in an English or math course.

Although the MMP is scored automatically when the application is completed, if a student isn’t happy with that score, the student can still take the assessment test or use another placement option. The highest placement data will be used.

The MMAP is applied in community colleges all over California, including Cuesta’s closest neighbor, Allan Hancock College.

Hancock implemented a similar program.

“Multiple measures are used as a more comprehensive review of your math and English skill levels based on high school courses you completed, grades received and other educational experiences,” according to Hancock’s website.

Assembly Bill 705, which requires California Community Colleges to transition to this program, is awaiting approval from Governor Jerry Brown; it was sent to him on Sept. 25.

The passing of the bill will require colleges to use high school transcript data to evaluate incoming students.

It also sets a standard for how community colleges can use this data in the placement of students into English and math; and sets requirements for core prerequisites, while also providing opportunity for achieving and completing educational goals such as earning vocational certificates, career development and transfer qualification.

Cuesta’s MMP was derived from the Multiple Measures Assessment Project Study conducted by the Research Planning Group for California Community Colleges.

“The study, conducted in 2017, involved over one million cases for English and math and over 200 thousand cases for reading and English as a second language,” Lastreto said.

“For over two decades, California’s community colleges have been required to assess and place students in the curriculum through means other than a single test score,” the Research Planning Group found. “…Test scores have dominated the placement process across the California system.”

MMAP however, provides evidence indicating that, “multiple measures, such as high school transcripts and non-cognitive variables, can greatly improve the accuracy of the placement process.”

For further details or questions, go to Cuesta’s website and select the Admissions & Tab, then Assessment Services or contact a Cuesta counselor.