Program overview

  • Alternative approach to community college course placement: Multiple Measures Assessment (MMA) is a method to determine whether incoming community college students are placed in developmental or college-level courses. The approach aims to increase placement into college-level courses and improve course completion.

  • Incorporating a wider range of factors: While community colleges have traditionally placed incoming students in mainstream or developmental courses based on placement test scores alone, MMA takes a broader set of factors into consideration. These factors include measures such as placement test scores, high school GPA, assessments of writing or computer skills, and non-cognitive assessments (e.g., measures of traits such as motivation or problem-solving skills).

  • Scoring and establishing eligibility cutoffs: MMA can use either decision rules or an algorithm to synthesize information from the included measures and generate a placement recommendation that reflects a student’s readiness for college-level coursework. Students are allowed to enroll in college-level courses if one or more measures (or a weighted combination of measures) meet an established benchmark cutoff. This benchmark is typically determined by the college based on estimated historical misplacement rates, in which misplacement is represented by students who either were placed into developmental courses but could have succeeded in a college-level course or students who were placed into college-level courses but were unable to pass.

One study with a rigorous design provides some evidence for the Multiple Measures Assessment as a strategy for increasing placement into college-level courses and improving course completion, particularly in English courses.

  • A 2020 randomized controlled trial found that the use of the Multiple Measures Assessment increased students’ placement into college-level math courses by 16 percentage points and into college-level English courses by 44 percentage points. The use of the assessment also increased English course completion rates by 2.9 percentage points. This increase in English course completion rates was largest for women, Pell Grant recipients, and Black students.
  • Assess readiness and build consensus prior to implementation: Implementing MMA requires a shift in an institution's approach to course placement and affects many different stakeholders. To prepare for implementation, colleges and universities should assess their technological and administrative capacity, in order to ensure they can produce the data necessary to set eligibility cutoffs. As part of this effort, the implementation team should seek to build buy-in among staff, such as by sharing information on the evidence base behind the MMA approach.

  • Select prioritized and feasible assessment measures: MMA can be implemented using a range of data sources, such as placement tests, assessments and questionnaires (e.g., LASSI, ACT Engage, or Grit Scale), high school transcripts, or college admissions exam results. Colleges should consider the validity, availability, ease of use, and cost for each of these measures. This guide provides helpful suggestions that can be used to select placement criteria.

  • Provide supplemental services to help students succeed in college-level courses: The MMA model aims to more accurately determine which students can be successful in college-level coursework. However, all students can face challenges that threaten their academic success, regardless of their initial readiness. As such, postsecondary institutions should offer additional support services to students, like peer tutoring or corequisite support coursework.

  • Improve developmental coursework: Historically, developmental courses have been associated with worse student outcomes. As such, it is important that colleges and universities prioritize improving developmental course offerings alongside the implementation of MMA. This will ensure that students who are placed in such courses still have an equal opportunity of success. Potential steps include reducing the number of semesters or cost for required developmental coursework, building clear enrollment pathways linking developmental and college-level courses, or promoting strong connections between students in developmental coursework and campus support services.