CUNY's Testing Program: Characteristics, Results, and Implications for Policy and Research

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This report responds to a request for information about the quality of the tests the City University of New York (CUNY) uses to decide who must take remedial courses and a profile of CUNY freshmen. Roughly 65% of CUNY bachelor's degree students and nearly 90% of associate degree students are required to take remedial courses in reading, writing, or mathematics. CUNY uses three tests to determine whether an incoming freshman requires remedial instruction: (1) the Reading Assessment Test (RAT); (2) the Mathematics Assessment Test (MAT); and (3) the Writing Assessment Test (WAT). These tests are collectively referred to as the Freshman Skills Assessment Test (FSAT). Analyses revealed that the RAT and MAT had adequate score reliabilities, but this was not the case with the WAT. There was some empirical support for the construct validity of the RAT and MAT in their correlation with Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores, but the three tests in the FSAT had fairly low criterion-related validity coefficients in that they did not do a good job in predicting first-year grades. There was no evidence of racial or ethnic bias in the FSAT scores. Certain combinations of variables were able to predict first-year grade point averages far more accurately than was possible when the same variables were used individually. If CUNY chooses to continue to devote substantial resources to remediation, rather than raising standards for admissions, the process of determining who is to get remedial instruction should be improved. It is also recommended that CUNY require all students to take the SAT to provide an external, independent, and standardized benchmark of student ability. If CUNY decides to raise admissions standards, it should do so on the basis of high school grade point average and SAT, but the university should monitor the effects of any changes in admissions policy carefully. An appendix contains statistical data from the study. (Contains 5 figures, 15 tables, and 8 references.) (SLD)

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Klein, founder and President of Career-Wise Inc., is a consultant to individuals and professionals on career development, personal marketing, and entrepreneurship.

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