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Degrees of Freedom: Probing Math Placement Policies at California Colleges and Universities (Part 3 of a 3-Part Series)

“Increasingly community college leaders are wondering whether all students assigned to remedial courses really need to take them in the first place. As colleges in California and nationally re-think their placement policies and practices, these concerns are gaining more urgency.”

There is growing concern that the remedial math courses taken by most community college students unnecessarily divert some students from earning a degree. Anecdotes of students who thought they had completed their math requirements in high school only to have remedial courses delay their progress through college are common. In addition, research has shown that African American and Latino students are disproportionately affected, frequently facing three or four remedial math classes. Redesigning the placement policies that assign students to these sequences could be as important as redesigning the curricula into which students are placed. This report examines concerns that placement policies unfairly send the majority of community college students to remedial math, deterring them from completing college. It also considers how changes in these policies interact with university placement policies as well as with K-12 college readiness strategies.

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