Do placement exams bar students from higher ed? McFarlin says no. Read Education Week story

February 5, 2015

Education Week highlights Isaac McFarlin Jr.’s latest study in “Failing a Placement Exam Does Not Discourage College Enrollment,” posted by Caralee Adams on January 15.

State test cited in lower college enrollments,” a 1995 Dallas Morning News article, argued that the Texas Academic Skills Program – a placement exam administered to determine if high-school students were academically prepared for college – “acts as a higher education barrier, especially to some minorities who traditionally have a higher failure rate than their white counterparts.” Today, according to Adams, “nearly 1 in 3 students are required to take remedial courses … their freshman year to catch up.”

But does the prospect of remedial courses dissuade high-schoolers from attending college? “Does Failing a Placement Exam Discourage Unprepared Students from Going to College?,” co-authored by McFarlin Jr., Paco Martorell of the University of California, Davis and Yu Xue of the University of Texas at Dallas, contends that it does not. “We find that students whose placement exam scores would require them to be in remediation are no less likely to enroll in college than are students who score just above the remediation placement cutoff,” write the co-authors.

The study can be found in the most recent issue of Education and Finance Policy, the official journal of the Association for Education and Finance.

Isaac McFarlin Jr. is an assistant research scientist of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. His work examines the efficacy of college remediation - also known as developmental education - in promoting academic performance and educational attainment.

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