Accuplacer Prep Programs
Why the Accuplacer Prep Program?
In Massachusetts each year, more than 12,000 new community college students have to take remedial courses.
The College Board’s Accuplacer Prep test was adopted by Massachusetts in 1998 to assess student skills and determine whether students must take developmental courses at the college and university level. We created the Accuplacer Prep program in response to the Accuplacer’s high rate of student assignment to these remedial courses. The Accuplacer Prep Program has helped raise students’ Accuplacer scores an average 30 points (on a scale of 120), and eliminated between 50% and 70% of the remedial courses rising students would be required to take.
60% of incoming freshmen in the MA community college system are required to take remedial courses.
Our program is designed to support teachers and their curriculum. Through using the Accuplacer, we can assess and remediate language and math skills that are required for high school and college work. This helps close the gap between high school and college standards while also providing an accurate measure of college readiness.
Our goal is to addresses this disparity while students are still in high school. We are certified by the College Board to administer Accuplacer tests to high school students in 11th grade and 12th grades (depending on the needs of the school). Since our Accuplacer test scores are accepted by community colleges, once a high school student has passed an Accuplacer test (arithmetic, algebra, reading comprehension, or sentence skills) after taking our course, she does not have to take that Accuplacer test at the college. This translates to fewer developmental courses and a higher chance of graduation. In fact, each developmental course eliminated raises a student’s chance of graduation by 13% to 15%.
The Importance of a College Degree
Over 60% of students planning on attending a Massachusetts community college do not pass the Accuplacer and are required to take remedial courses.
Earning a college degree is the most important step a young person can take towards lifelong economic viability. Realistically, a community college degree is the minimum requirement for sustainable employment. Consider the following:
- About 22% of students entering a Massachusetts state university test into developmental courses.
- Community colleges offer opportunity to the most economically vulnerable segments of our population.
- Due to low scores on the Accuplacer college placement test, 60% of entering community college students are assigned to non-credit remedial courses; only 10% of these remedial students earn a degree.
College Readiness Gap by the Numbers
According to the Board of Higher Education, only 10% of students who begin community college taking remedial or “developmental” courses will finish a two-year degree. This developmental barrier is a major reason why graduation rates at community colleges are below 20% and why only 39% of our 25 to 34 year old population hold any form of college degree. In our skill-intensive labor market, a young worker without a college degree has little chance of obtaining worthwhile employment.
The main reason for the high rate of Accuplacer failure is the disparity between high school graduation standards and college entry standards. For example, the state high school “Proficiency” standard in math is only 48% of the points on the 10th grade MCAS. Passing is 30%. The Proficient standard in English is 56% and passing is 32%. This may explain why 60% of these same students who pass the MCAS go on to fail the Accuplacer two years later and face the requirement of remedial courses at the college level.
Who Benefits from the Accuplacer Prep Program?
A two year degree is worth one quarter million dollars in lifetime earnings over a high school diploma; a four-year degree is worth more than $800,000.
All students can benefit from a skill refresher. However, we mainly focus on students in urban high schools who have scored below Proficient on the MCAS. Additionally, many of our students identify with a minority group or as low-income. In Massachusetts, 62% of students entering 2-year colleges must take at least one developmental course. For some demographic groups, these rates are even higher: 71% of college-bound African-American students and 67% of Hispanic students must take at least one developmental course. Unfortunately, these extra courses do not improve graduation rates: only 10% of students taking remedial courses will go on to earn an Associate’s Degree. For students having to take multiple remedial courses (in some cases up to seven) the graduation rate is even lower and the cost is much higher.
Consider the following:
- In Massachusetts, low-income youth make up 38.3% of our public school enrollment; however, in large cities the proportions of low-income youth are double the state rate.
- In our nine urban school districts with enrollments of over 10,000, the proportions of low-income students range from 71.7% to 87.5%.
- These nine districts educate about one-fifth of all students in the Commonwealth (approximately 186,000 students); however, they also service over half of the state’s low-income students!
- Community college is the pathway of opportunity for the 38.3% of Massachusetts youth who qualify as low-income (365,885 students).
Our youth deserve opportunities to develop skills that will qualify them for college and for life in our complex society. If we provide extra support to low-income urban students, they can use those skills to earn a two or four- year degree. This significantly increases their chances of success in the labor market and their lifelong earning power.
Our Focus on Community Colleges
Did you know that one-third of Massachusetts undergraduates (about 140,000 students) are enrolled in community colleges? For many students, community college is the most practical, accessible, and economical choice. For this reason, we have made community college enrollment our primary focus. Students who succeed at community college have a chance to compete in the labor market and to continue their education by enrolling in a four–year college degree program. Our mission is to ensure that as many students as possible succeed in community college. College success begins with passing the Accuplacer.
The Importance of Collaboration
Many students have aspirations to go to college but have not taken the necessary steps at the time they begin our program. Most do not understand the importance of Accuplacer in relation to their overall college and career readiness. We work closely with high schools, colleges, and community partners to help close this gap—in information and skills– between high school and colleges. This helps ensure that students will no longer be blindsided by an unexpected battery of tests and a bill for courses that earn no credit.
We believe firmly in the power of collaboration. This is why we foster partnerships with high school teams, community colleges, and four-year colleges. This kind of collaboration enables high school and college faculty to connect and build an interactive community of practice aimed at decreasing the need for developmental courses. It also supports dual enrollment opportunities and helps students meet the comprehensive set of subject area courses prescribed in the Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore).
All about Preparation
We help students reach the goal of college and career readiness, defined by the Commonwealth as “successful achievement of specified levels of competence in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics… to be placed into entry-level courses in college or participate in certificate or workplace training programs without the need for remediation.” Students who have passed the Accuplacer in high school have met this standard. They enter college with more confidence, higher chances of completing a college degree, and far better career options for the future.
No one would encourage a student to take the SAT without going through SAT Prep. The same consideration is owed students taking the Accuplacer. . Students who are heading for community and state colleges are entitled to the highest level of skills and the broadest range of life options possible when they leave high school and take the next step into their futures.
Our “Two Steps to College” Program
JFYNet prepares high school students for college-level work by systematically diagnosing weaknesses in math and English and correcting those weaknesses with a computerized course of individualized, customized instruction. Our program works at two levels. Our 9th and 10th grade program ( in operation since 2000) focuses on MCAS preparation; our 11th and 12th grade program (added in 2011) leads to the Accuplacer. This combined program is called Two Steps to College.
- Step One: 9th & 10th grade
The 9th and 10th grade component serves two purposes: to assist teachers and students in the transition to the Common Core State Standards and to prepare students for the high school graduation test. Massachusetts is currently transitioning from its existing MCAS test to the new PARCC exam. Our programs assess students based on the Common Core and align instruction to the standards embedded in both tests. As PARCC assessment materials become available, they are incorporated into our measurement system.
- Step Two: 11th and 12th grade
The 11th and 12th grade component is our Accuplacer Prep program. We use the College Board Accuplacer Diagnostics for assessment, followed by individualized instructional programs from JFY’s curriculum bank, and then the Accuplacer Placement for progress measurement. 11th graders typically study reading comprehension and arithmetic, while 12th graders focus on algebra and the Sentence Skills writing test. Students begin by taking an Accuplacer Diagnostic pre-test which tells us exactly where each student needs remedial help and how many developmental courses she would be required to take at the college level. Diagnostic testing results are shared with school staff (headmaster, academic deans, math and English teachers and department heads, guidance and career counselors). After determining the student’s needs, she is assigned an individualized program of reading, writing, and math study. This instruction is embedded into the class schedule a minimum of one period per week and is counted as part of the class grade.
Once a student has completed the assigned curricula, we administer the Accuplacer Placement post-test. When final scores meet the target college’s requirements, they are sent to the college and the student is relieved of developmental requirements for that subject. When scores do not meet college standards, the JFYNet team works with teachers and counselors to analyze the results and create new instructional plans. We work closely with schools to support a mentoring model in which students receive regular progress reports to help identify practical next steps.
How do our Courses Fit into a Student’s Existing Schedule?
Seamless Incorporation: Our Accuplacer Prep Program is folded into a student’s math or English class and is taught by the regular teacher. Because the skills are fundamental to math or English, this supplemental study supports the regular curriculum while also preparing the student for the Accuplacer. During the periods when the class is doing Accuplacer prep, each student will work online following his own curriculum. The teacher moves around the classroom helping, coaching, and instructing individual students. This typical blended learning pedagogy allows the teacher to function as a tutor, giving individualized, differentiated instruction. The student data base embedded in the software records all activity so the teacher can quickly scan a report at the end of the period, see each student’s progress, and flag problems to be addressed in the following session.
Individualized, Differentiated Instruction: This form of assessment-based online instruction supports students and teachers. Students work through the program at their own pace; this promotes learning and comprehension. Our user friendly program also supports teachers by providing reliable feedback. Frequent progress reports enable teachers to address problems immediately. Additionally, we offer several instructional software options (Adaptive Curriculum, Khan Academy, MyFoundationsLab, SkillsTutor, Apex, Geometer’s Sketchpad) so that teachers can differentiate their instructional approach based on their students’ learning styles.
21st Century Learning: Today’s students are digital natives, accustomed to giving and getting information online. By offering them opportunities to learn online, we can get their attention. If our online content is compelling, we can hold their attention long enough to sharpen their skills. Schools are moving towards a 21st century model of education with a focus on technology and media that attempts to utilize students’ online absorption for educational purposes. Our program supports both student and school growth.
What about Students Who Plan On Pursuing a Different Path?
All students can benefit from our program regardless of whether they plan on attending a two or four-year college, pursing a technical education, or entering the work force. Students on a college, career or technical pathway will exit high school with a stronger skill set, meet graduation requirements, and have more options for certificate or two-year programs. Students not attending college or training programs will be better prepared to meet their responsibilities in the workplace, with their families, and in civil society.
The objective of all JFYNet programs is to build student skills in order to improve performance on the MCAS, PARCC and ACCUPLACER, increase rates of high school graduation, reduce or eliminate the need for remedial college courses, improve employment options, and ensure that all students leave high school fully “college and career ready.”
Partnerships & Collaborations
JFYNetWorks is currently engaged in several partnerships and collaborations.
Partnerships: Active programs providingMCAS or Accuplacer instruction to students.
- Community colleges:
- Middlesex Community College – Accuplacer prep for MCC’s STEM Starter Academy, a state initiative to increase STEM enrollments in community colleges. Preparing students from area high schools to qualify for entry into STEM studies at Middlesex.
- Roxbury Community College – Accuplacer prep for RCC’s STEM Starter Academy initiative.
- Quincy College – Partnership with QC to provide Accuplacer preparation to students at Quincy and North Quincy High Schools.
- RoxMAPP (Roxbury Massachusetts Academic Polytechnical Pathway) – Accuplacer preparation for this state-funded collaboration between Roxbury Community College and Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to enable high school students to enroll in credit-bearing college courses leading to technical careers.
- Success Boston: Accuplacer preparation at Boston high schools as part of this citywide network of schools, agencies and funders working on college access and success.
Collaborations : Joint efforts with other organizations to develop and fund collaborative programs.
- School and Main Institute—Wraparound Zone, a comprehensive education and social service program in Fall River in collaboration with Bristol Community College, Diman Tech and Durfee HS.
- Center for 21st Century Skills @ Education Connection – an expansion of a successful Connecticut-based NSF and USDOE -funded program to Massachusetts.
- Friends of the Children — Accuplacer preparation and wraparound support services for youth and families in FOC’s Boston service area.
Boston Public Schools– Two Steps to College, an 11-school 3700 student MCAS and Accuplacer prep program developed collaboratively by JFY and the BPS to close MCAS achievement gaps and the college readiness gap.