Revised BRCC Exams Help Prep Students More Quickly, Cheaply
Posted: December 28, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Changes to Blue Ridge Community College’s placement tests and developmental coursework are allowing students to get started on their general coursework in less time — and for less money.
The revamp to developmental education — which some students must complete before joining regular college classes — could save in-state students up to $587 on tuition per class, based on the college’s current tuition and fees.
That is because placement tests are now more diagnostic and developmental classes are shorter and the curriculum more focused, BRCC President John Downey said.
“It is just saving [students] a lot of time and money,” Downey said.
Students who want to attend BRCC take a placement test before enrolling in classes. The test gauges how prepared students are for college-level coursework. Depending on test scores, students can immediately enroll in general coursework, or first must take a developmental course to brush up on math or reading and writing.
Starting last January, new math placement tests were given and different reading and writing tests will be given starting next month.
“This new test is more diagnostic,” Downey said. “What I mean by that is it tells us specifically whether a student is weak in fractions and decimals and algebra or polynomials. Based on that, we can match those students up to the [class] that they need.”
Before, if students performed poorly on the math placement test, they would have to take a five-credit course that covered all the areas of mathematics, even the ones they proved strong in.
Now students can enter one-credit math courses that teach a specific subject — like algebra or fractions. In 2013, English tests will also be remodeled to streamline the developmental courses.
“It’s a way to give students exactly what they need to succeed in college and cut down on the expense at the same time,” Downey said.
The decision to change the placement tests and coursework was first examined three years ago by a committee created by the Virginia Community College System, according to Downey.
A company created the new placement tests for all 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System.
“We knew that not enough students were successful in [developmental education] and that we needed to re-conceptualize the way we did it,” he said.
In the coming years, BRCC will continue to monitor the changes to make sure they’re effective.
“We’re going to continue to analyze [if] we improved students’ success in the college-level reading and writing course and in related courses they take in college,” Downey said. “We’ll collect data on that for the next year or two [and] we will tweak that redesign as a result of what we find out.”
Downey said partnerships with local school divisions are working to eliminate the need for developmental education for area students altogether.
“We’ve had some very successful stories in that regard,” Downey said.
For example, in Harrisonburg City Schools, students can take a placement test and if they don’t do well, they can receive the same content that would be taught at the college level in a developmental class while still in high school.
That way, when they take a real placement test at BRCC, they will be ready to enter general courses.
The program is called the College Readiness Project, Downey said, and has saved students a lot of time and money.
“We estimated that for each student who participated [they] probably saved about $2,000 in tuition and fees because they took that content in high school,” he said.
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or firstname.lastname@example.org