State introduces single college readiness test
By Melissa Greene email@example.com
Sept. 2, 2013 at 11 p.m.
The board that oversees public higher education in Texas has launched a new assessment tool that replaces the multitude of placement exams that have been used - and raises the bar for Texas students planning to attend college.
It also could cut into the number of high school students accepted into dual-credit programs at community colleges in East Texas and elsewhere.
Students enrolling in college now will only be offered the new, more rigorous test rather than the Accuplacer, THEA or the variety of others offered in the past.
"This transitions each school to a single test with a single set of college readiness standards," said Dominic Chavez, senior director of external relations for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Since fall 2003, the Texas Success Initiative has required all students entering college be assessed for readiness in math, reading and writing through placement testing unless they qualify for one of several exemptions, including ACT/SAT scores or military service.
Thirty percent of 2012 Texas high school graduates did not meet success initiative standards in reading, writing and math, according to a report from the coordinating board. In such cases, adult basic education classes are typically required to help bridge that gap.
"We have been told the new TSI assessment will have more rigor and will be longer in content," said Panola College Director of Admissions Jeremy Dorman. "The results will let us know if the student is college ready, should be placed in developmental areas or placed in adult basic education type courses based on their assessment scores."
Texas colleges will not be required to place students in basic education courses for the first year of the new assessment, he said.
Dual-credit students - those taking a college course for both college and high school credits - in the past were exempt from placement testing through taking standardized state tests. But this fall they were required to take the exams because "cut scores" - the minimum a student must achieve to show college readiness - were not yet set by the coordinating board after the transition from TAKS to STAAR.
Testing center officials at Kilgore College and Panola College said they have been busy so far this semester.
Kilgore College Registrar Staci Martin had said enrollment in dual credit classes could falter once the new assessment is in place. As of Wednesday, 908 dual-credit students were enrolled in Kilgore College.
Martin said that information is not tracked across semesters because dual-credit students count as part of regular enrollment numbers, so no comparison number is available. However, she previously estimated between 1,000 to 1,200 dual-credit students enroll each semester.
At Panola, Dorman said from 450 to 500 dual-credit students from 15 high schools enroll each semester.
With the change in how students are tested, colleges will be able to better help remediate struggling students, Chavez said.
"The old various assessments told whether a student was college ready, but the new assessment not only measures readiness, but is also a diagnostic tool. It's going to pinpoint areas a student is weak in," Chavez said.
For information on testing times at Kilgore College, visit www.kilgore.edu/testing.asp or to schedule a time to test, call the Kilgore College testing center at (903) 983-8215. For questions about registering or testing requirements, call the registrar's office at (903) 983-8606.
To schedule testing at Panola College call (903) 693-2036 or for information call (903) 693-2038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.