By Rebecca Gomez
Brookhaven College freshman Edwin Aragon has had a rough relationship with the Accuplacer, the assessment test all new college students must take prior to enrollment. Aragon did not perform satisfactorily the first time he took the test. So with the looming specter of developmental courses, he retook the math and English sections to be placed in college-level courses. “Developmental courses would have been a waste of time and money,” Aragon said. The state of Texas agreed with him.
On Aug 26, the Coordinating Board in Austin, seeking to cut some of its costs, replaced the Accuplacer with the Texas Success Initiative (TSI).
The Accuplacer, as defined by accuplacer.collegeboard.org, is a computerized, three-section exam consisting of math, reading and writing that determines whether a student is ready for college-level or developmental courses.
Those in developmental courses do not receive college credit, but students must pass prior to being admitting for credit classes.
Adair Aranda, a Brookhaven student working on a certificate in geographic information systems, took the Accuplacer in 2006. Aranda performed well enough on the tests to be placed in college-level courses.
However, unlike Aranda, many students were not doing well and languished in developmental courses, a problem the state hoped the TSI could solve, Winifred Clarke, director of the Testing Center, said.
Clarke said the TSI kept the same basic format as the Accuplacer, but added two new components: a diagnostic test and a Pre-Assessment Activity (PAA). Prior to taking the TSI, Clarke continued, students watch a PAA, a video that explains what to expect on the exam and stresses the importance of taking the exam seriously. No PAA, no exam.
“Hopefully, students will come in more prepared to take the TSI than when they did to take the Accuplacer,” Clarke said. Aragon said he initially failed the reading and writing portions of the Accuplacer because he did not realize how his performance on the exam would affect his college career.
Once the PAA is completed, students take the TSI. Those who do not pass take an additional diagnostic test to deter- mine exactly which concepts hindered their success, Clarke said.
“A student comes in to take the test, and if the student does not test well, it tells you where the student needs help. Instead of saying, ‘You’re not good at math,’ it says, ‘You’re not good at addition or subtraction,’” Clarke said.
Instructors will provide tutoring to students once their problem areas are determined, Clarke said, so the goal is for the student to re-take and pass the failed portions of the exam.
Clarke explained the objective of the TSI is to either lower the number of students in developmental courses or to lessen the amount of time students spend in them.
Clarke said she wants to see success in lowering the amount of students in developmental courses as early as Spring 2014.