Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Ceceilia Parnther

Second Advisor

Anthony Annunziato,

Third Advisor

Stephen Kotok


For most students entering a community college, placement tests have become a high-stakes venture as it is often a placement test score alone that determines whether a student is considered college-ready (Scott-Clayton, 2012). The purpose of this study was to assess the math placement, persistence, and retention of first-time community college students from fall 2016 through fall 2019 at one community college located in the Northeast. Students in these cohorts were assigned to introductory math courses based on two different sets of placement guidelines. The first set of guidelines relied more heavily on a single test score, while newly developed guidelines incorporated high school achievement markers, such as performance in HS math courses, often instead of placement testing, for a more holistic evaluation. The new guideline criteria resulted in more students placed into college-level math with a statistically significant increase in the number of college-level credits students enrolled in their first semester (M = 11.107, SD = 4.572); t(8921) = -10.305, p = 0.00. Placement into college-level math improved across all ethnic student groups.

The independent variables of age, gender, ethnicity, financial aid/SES, enrollment status and high school GPA, were included in the logistic regression analyses to evaluate dichotomous outcomes on persistence and retention. The study relied on archived data collected by the study institution, including high school transcript data and math course placements. The results were mixed and the effect sizes were small with a high power. The regression models predicted statistically significant effects on student persistence and retention between students evaluated under the two different placement criteria. Enrollment status, HSGPA, age, ethnicity and financial aid were found to have significant effects on predicting student outcomes. The new math placement guideline criteria showed promising results regarding improved access to gateway math courses and opportunities for improved student outcomes. This study supports the literature on holistic measures for assessment and placement, and recognizes placement policies as a mechanism for validating student outcomes.