Instruction Commission Efficiency Report

Placement reciprocity process

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Placement reciprocity process [NOTE: this work depends on and follows the work on multiple placement approaches and transcript-based placement]

Include in the 2011-12 work plans of the Instruction and Student Services commissions the goal of establishing a statewide system of reciprocity for college-to-college acceptance of student placement results by fall 2012.

Task the Articulation and Transfer Council (ATC) with general responsibility for crafting a draft reciprocity agreement, following ATC’s model for negotiating similar agreements in distribution and diversity requirements, by spring 2012.

Convene a multi-constituent work group to review and comment on the implementation of the draft agreement in spring-summer 2012, with representation from ATC, ARC, CBS, and the Advising and Counseling Council.

Joint Committee

By Fall 2012

College processes around placement test orientation and preparation

Review literature and promising practices identified during data-gathering process in spring 2011.

Develop the following resources:

  • A script and ideas of content for the assessment orientation video.

  • A checklist of components to address in a pre-assessment orientation process

  • Web-based repository for specific resources and/or methods of assessment test orientation and preparation.

Joint Committee

Fall 2011-Spring 2012

Evaluation process:

  • Create a cross-functional evaluation task force, with WARP as the lead organization, charged with evaluating the new processes and practices. 

  • Consult with steering committee and relevant workgroups to identify the new assessment/placement processes and practices for evaluation.

  • Gather and review existing published literature regarding the effectiveness of these processes and practices. 

  • Develop a plan to gather pre/post change data from a representative sample of colleges.  Identify the sources of data and specific analyses proposed as part of the evaluation. It is anticipated that qualitative as well as quantitative information will be obtained. Solicit input and feedback from affected stakeholders across the state regarding the evaluation plan.

  • Finalize the evaluation plan, responding to concerns addressed by stakeholders, including a timeline and resource needs.

  • After sufficient time for adoption of the new assessment/placement processes and practices, gather data from the selected colleges and conduct effectiveness analyses.

  • Prepare a report summarizing the findings regarding the effectiveness of the new processes. Identify apparent improvements in the assessment/placement process as well as any areas of concern regarding the new system. Develop recommendations for further improving the system, based on the evaluation results. Share the results widely across the state with stakeholder groups.

Joint Committee

Fall 2011-Summer 2013

Ongoing; varies based on timetables for separate workgroups

Pre-college Developmental Education Transformation

Pre-college developmental education needs to be a holistic, outcomes-based learning experience that allows students to progress through pre-college swiftly and efficiently with the full support of the campus community and the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful at reaching the Tipping Point and beyond.

Pre-college work groups recognize that community and technical colleges are designed to serve individual communities and that those communities differ among geography, economic base, population size and student and community demographics. As such, we endeavored to develop recommendations that are based upon research, demonstrate student success, express a commitment to equity and excellence, accommodate individual college cultures and communities, and reveal the need for a culture of evidence and accountability to the citizens we serve.

Current Practices

Current practice is to place students into discrete pre-college reading, writing, and math classes based on cutoff scores on a standardized placement test like Compass or Accuplacer. The classes students take are generally stand-alone sequenced classes focused on advancing student skills to be successful in the next level. Colleges differ on curriculum, learning outcomes, and number of classes in a pre-college sequence. The classes are usually not directly connected to a certificate or degree pathway or to the adult basic education sequence that precedes these classes for many students. Neither developmental education nor adult basic education courses are as successful as we would like in moving students towards gaining credits that count toward degrees and credentials.

Student supports also differ among colleges and within a college- depending on which “door” students enter to access their education (Workforce Education, Student Services or Basic Skills).

Summary of Research

Most pre-college students fail to achieve a certificate or degree. Recent research cites that many of these students do not have a clear goal for college or career and that colleges provide little guidance to help them successfully navigate programs and service opportunities. As a result, student course taking behavior is random.

Literature suggests the following pre-college promising practices. Models described in this document only represent a sample of innovation inside and outside Washington State.

  • Pathways – Tightly structured and transparent career pathways at the pre-college level where the instruction is contextualized around an occupational program or occupational clusters and serves as the instructional vehicle for basic skills and developmental education. Examples of successful pathway models include I-BEST, pre-college programs focused on occupational clusters like human services, trades, or business and structured programs that have well defined program options or prescribed paths to completion.

Models: All community and technical colleges offer I-BEST programs.

  • Integrated Developmental Education (contextualized learning) – Developmental courses are presented in a format that focuses on acquiring specific competencies and can be applied in related college courses with college credit. Competencies may be life skills, employability skills or specific academic or professional and technical course discipline skills. This requires that faculty connect disciplines and coordinate assignments so that students are working on related topics, concepts, or tasks, thus integrating remedial course work with credit bearing classes. Integrated and contextualized models combine a student’s degree goal area with pre-college content.

Models: Models for Math and English taught in the context of life skills, study skills, financial literacy, financial aid, and admissions processes may be found at Highline Community College, Bellevue College, Olympic College, Tacoma Community College, Yakima Valley Community College, and Whatcom Community College.

Developmental I-BEST pilot programs that integrate and contextualize pre-college math, writing, and reading in academic and professional and technical disciplines include:

    • Bellingham Technical College – License Practical Nursing

    • Clover Park Technical College – Computer Aided Drawing (CAD)

    • Grays Harbor College – Welding

    • Highline Community College – Early Childhood Education

    • Lake Washington Technical College – Automotive Repair

    • Lower Columbia Community College – Early Childhood Education

    • Shoreline Community College – Automotive General Services Technician

    • Tacoma Community College – Medical Office Clerk

    • Walla Walla Community College – Watershed Ecology

    • Whatcom Community College – Medical Assisting

  • Inversion” models – These models use technology to move information delivery out of the classroom, freeing up time for higher-level learning (application) and engagement during class time. Students in an inverted classroom review materials normally presented in class as an assignment prior to each class session. The actual classroom time is focus on application, discussion, collaborative work, and allows for more one-on-one instructional assistance in the classroom. 

Models: University of British Columbia used 850 undergraduate physics students taking a compulsory physics course. Students were split into two groups at the start and all went to traditional lecture classes. In the twelfth week (they are on semesters), they shifted one group to a “deliberate practice model, which inverts the traditional university model.” Class time is spent on problem solving, discussion and group work while absorption of facts and formulae is left for homework. They spent time in class in small groups discussing specific problems, with the teacher roaming between groups to offer advice and respond to questions. At the end of the course all students completed a test. The results showed the traditionally instructed group’s average score was 41percent compared to 74 percent for the experimental group – even though the experimental group did not manage to cover all the material directed by the course while the traditional group covered it all

Models: Edmonds Community College Math 051 – Real World Math 2 using the Khan Academy.

  • Acceleration models – These programs increase the rate that students move into college-level by restructuring courses using instructional technology, modules, or “inclusion” models that provide necessary supports for students in college-level classes. Students are awarded credit for the level of learning outcomes they have achieved at the end of a quarter, regardless of their starting point in the curriculum sequence.

Models: The Community College of Baltimore County’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP); Lower Columbia College Academic I-BEST program and Developmental I-BEST program; Clover Park Technical College Developmental Education I-BEST program; Highline Community College Developmental I-BEST program.

  • Cohort Integrated Skill Building Models – There are many different versions of this concept, all of which focus on engagement (connecting students with faculty, peers, student organizations, etc.) and integration. Most cohort programs incorporate an element of peer and faculty mentoring, tutoring, study skill development and integrated developmental education. Schools that have implemented cohorts have noted that students participating in the program passed more courses, earned more credits, and reported feeling more integrated and engaged in their education than their peers who did not participate. When designed with a holistic approach in mind, cohort programs address each major barrier to student success: lack of motivation and direction, an ignorance of higher education navigation, lack of social support, perceived lack of resources, academic under preparedness, and lack of engagement. Students work within a learning community type of atmosphere to develop academic qualifications, professional skills and personal attributes necessary to succeed.

Models: Academy for College Excellence (ACE) at Cabrillo College in California uses cohort building and acceleration. College readiness cohorts, transitional pilots, and learning communities are being offered at many Washington community and technical colleges including Centralia College, Highline Community College, Yakima Valley Community College, Olympic College, Clark College and Skagit Valley College. I-BEST is offered at all colleges in Washington State and generally follows a cohort model.

  • Mentoring Programs and Supplemental Instruction – Different versions of mentoring have been studied, with peer mentoring being found to have the greatest impact on student success when done with a holistic approach. Faculty mentoring was also seen as valuable and statistically significant when faculty was fully vested in student’s well-being. Supplemental Instruction can be provided in a variety of forms and formats including peer tutoring linked to specific courses, discipline-specific tutoring centers, in-class teaching assistants, and computer-enhanced homework programs.

Models: Supplemental instruction and peer mentoring can be found at many Washington State community and technical colleges including Green River Community College, Pierce College, Clover Park Technical College, North Seattle Community College, Shoreline Community College and Tacoma Community College.

  • Student Readiness/Success Courses – These courses are becoming more prevalent as studies show that underprepared and pre-college students are deficient in more than just academic skills, but also the basic study and college readiness skills. Research shows the greatest success when college readiness and study skill development are imbedded into pre-college courses (i.e., developmental English/math). A model to consider includes student success modules tailored to students’ individual needs. Another variation is a “just-in-time” approach that addresses students’ needs as they arise (i.e., FAFSA and funding guidance as students apply to the college and transition from basic skills to developmental education, study skills integrated into developmental education etc). Research shows students enrolled in remedial course work as well as success courses were eight percent more likely to persist and earn a credential than those who did not. In addition, the need to offer student readiness courses to address non-academic deficiencies (time management, financial literacy, efficacy and resiliency) has increased.

Models: Student readiness/success and first year experience courses can be found at many Washington State colleges including Shoreline Community College, Edmonds Community College, South Puget Sound Community College, Columbia Basin College, Bellevue College, Cascadia Community College, Olympic College, Yakima Valley Community College, and Whatcom Community College.

  • Transparent and Supported Financial Aid Process – The financial aid application process can be a significant hurdle for pre-college students. Terms and concepts included in the application can be confusing. The required steps in the process, including the deadlines, can vary from college to college. Strategies should include offering multiple strategies for clearly communicating information about financial aid application processes and deadlines to students, families, and high school guidance counselors. Additionally, providing guidance and assistance for students who do not understand the process, have gotten “stuck” on a step in the process, or have special circumstances that complicate the financial aid process would be helpful for students – especially first generation college students.

Models: Many Washington State colleges offer financial literacy workshops, including sessions on completing the FAFSA. Suggestions include conducting these in high schools and in summer sessions to help students and parents prepare for upcoming college matriculation.

Recommendations for pre-college transformation
The primary goal in transforming pre-college education is to increase the number and percentage of pre-college students who reach college-level math and English in one year.
The ideal pre-college program is based upon statewide agreed-upon college readiness standards (knowledge, skills and abilities) for math, reading and writing. These standards define and establish minimum performance standards and expectations for pre-college math, reading and writing. The goal of the pre-college program is to create academic and student support structures that:

  • Allow the student to move to college-level math, reading and writing in one academic year or less.

  • Allow students the ability to demonstrate pre-college knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) in math, reading and writing at ascending levels of mastery and at the time they acquire those KSAs – giving students the ability to move immediately to the next level.

  • Provide multiple pathways and delivery modes for students to acquire KSAs for college-level math, reading and writing.

  • Contextualize math, reading and writing in the student’s field of study.

  • Integrate math, reading, and writing with principles and skills that build academic and life success.

  • Reduce pre-college math, reading and writing sequences.

Within the above outlined context, we recommend the following:

Recommendation 1: Identify and use college readiness standards as the foundation for all pre-college (including ABE/ESL) placement, content, sequencing, and pedagogy decisions.
College readiness standards will define the minimum knowledge, skills and abilities needed in preparation for college-level math, writing and reading. Pre-college course content, sequence, and pedagogy will be based upon the college readiness standards. In addition, pre-college courses will be part of an established educational pathway that matches each student’s educational goal.

Using statewide agreed-upon college readiness standards as a foundation for all pre-college teaching, learning and support services will help conform to a desired outcome-based model of pre-college education while creating consistency across the state and providing individual flexibility for local colleges.

Recommendation 2: Colleges will adopt one or more instructional models which research shows support student retention and completion in pre-college courses:

  • Contextualized and integrated

  • Outcomes-based and accelerated

  • Cohort building

  • Modularized

  • Inverted classroom design


These strategies have proven to be most effective in moving students further and faster toward earning college-level credit, persisting to completion of coursework and achieving their goals of earning certificates and degrees. In order to facilitate movement of students between courses and promote success in subsequent courses, all courses should include these strategies.

Recommendation 3: Colleges will shorten pre-college pathways by reducing Adult Basic Education and pre-college curriculum overlap.

These efforts reflect national research and early results of the Development Education I-BEST pilots. They will result in reduced math and reading/writing sequences and decreased time spent in remediation. Both colleges and students will begin to see greater progress to and through credit-bearing classes, more credentials and/or degrees earned in less time, and a better return on the investment of time and money. Shortening the pathway reduces the high cost and the negative impact of exponential attrition rate described in research across the country.

Recommendation 4: Colleges will close the gap between Adult Basic Education which prepares students for the GED and college-level math.
Not only is remedial math the biggest barrier to success for students who function below the college-level, it is also the area with the greatest number and complexity of issues, including:

  • Both substantial repetition of lower-level content and skills in Adult Basic Education (ABE) and developmental math classes and a large gap between the math required by federal ABE levels and the math skills knowledge and skills required at the college-level. The goal of ABE math, as defined by federal levels, is to pass the GED test.

  • ABE math is taught contextually, increasingly in the context of work. Developmental and college math is largely taught conceptually.

  • Professional preparation for ABE instructors, including those who may have a Ph.D., focuses largely on language and pedagogy. Most instructors lack specific preparation at and beyond the level of intermediate algebra required to prepare students for pre-college and college-level math.


Closing the skill gap between ABE and college math will allow student transitions to be more successful.

Recommendation 5: Student services, workforce education staff and pre-college faculty, including ABE faculty, will collaborate to integrate, embed and contextualize college and life readiness competencies into pre-college course work.
As pre-college coursework is redesigned to implement the pre-college curriculum content and pedagogy workgroup recommendations, student services/workforce and instructional staff can work together to develop strategies to embed, integrate and contextualize critical, evidence-based student supports in redesigned curriculum. Evidence–based student success and life competencies may include but not be limited to:

    • Motivation

    • Efficacy and resiliency

    • Study skills

    • College Knowledge – How to navigate the college system, i.e., credits, wait lists, intent codes, advising, prerequisites, college timelines, hardship withdrawals, eLearning, college support resources, etc.

    • College culture;

    • Multi-tasking and staying focused

    • Priority setting-seeking advising as needed

    • Financial literacy

    • Educational goal setting


Integrating student supports into pre-college coursework will address many of the barriers and reasons students drop out and do not transition to college-level work. Integrating FAFSA and student readiness/success strategies into course work will give students the skills needed to navigate our complex educational system and provide them with “just in time” resources needed to access academic and life resources available on college campuses and in their communities.

Recommendation 6: Implement a statewide technology system (early alert) that integrates instruction and student services student success interventions, increases communication across divisions, and provides a tracking system that follows the student through their chosen career pathway and multiple colleges.
The current SMS system does not support the integration of instructional and student service supports. It does not track supports as students’ progress along educational pathways and cross organizational divisions, nor does it support effective communication across instruction and student services/workforce organizations. Implementation of an early alert system will allow instructional and student supports to be documented in one system which will:

  • Eliminate duplication

  • Identify gaps in student supports

  • Provide the information needed for colleges to analyze the data over time to support continuous quality improvement.

  • Provide an integrated electronic tool which will support the holistic approach needed to support successful student transitions and student success.

  • Provide consistency among the colleges for student transitions.

Recommendation 7: Provide system-wide professional development for faculty and administration in pre-college education, focused on the models and strategies for success.


To implement the strategies identified as necessary to achieve student success in moving to the Tipping Point and beyond, and to move us forward, as a system, in improving student success in pre-college education, system-wide professional development for all pre-college faculty (including ABE) can be developed, focused on the strategies for success identified and described in this document.

Recommendation 8: All 34 Colleges can join and promote the use of NW eTutoring Consortium tutoring services.

This is part of implementing the Strategic Technology Plan because it is student focused and is based on shared resources that help students learn. Services should expand to include ABE students. Shared resources save time, money, effort and relieve stressed workers and learners.

Recommendation 9: Ensure the OCL courses are well designed, easy to find, adopt and use to gain widespread adoption and use at all 34 colleges.
The Open Course Library (OCL) is a project to design and share 81 high enrollment, gatekeeper courses for face-to-face, hybrid and online delivery.

Continuing with the development and implementation of Open Course Library will assist with:

  • Improving course completion rates;

  • Lowering textbook costs for students;

  • Providing new resources for faculty to use in their courses; and

  • Fully engaging the global open educational resources community.

Recommendation 10: Provide incentive grants for 20+ college faculty to adopt Open Learning Initiative courses for three quarters.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) builds learning environments that support continuous improvement in teaching and learning. All OLI courses are openly licensed and are FREE to Community and Technical College students and faculty. OLI is designed with intelligent tutoring systems, virtual laboratories, simulations, and frequent opportunities for assessment and feedback. One of the most powerful features of digital learning environments is that we can embed assessment into virtually all instructional activities.

While acknowledging the technical difficulties in simulating laboratory learning experiences in a virtual environment, a small incentive may motivate more faculty to try teaching a hybrid OLI course.

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