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Improving Math Placement in Community Colleges

Tatiana Melguizo fosters a new partnership between LAUSD and the Los Angeles Community College District

By Matthew C. Stevens

USC Rossier Professor Tatiana Melguizo is helping community colleges overcome a major roadblock to the equitable assessment and placement of its math students.

Tatiana Melguizo, Professor

“Students have often been placed in courses that were two or three levels below the ones they mastered in tests during high school,” she says.

Despite the existence of increasingly rich and detailed high school transcript data, community colleges have not been using it, relying mostly on commercially developed tests and students’ self-reported data. Over the past five years, Melguizo and Federick Ngo PhD ’17 have helped foster a partnership between the Los Angeles Community College District and the Los Angeles Unified School District that is uniting data from diagnostic tests with information from high school transcripts.

They are also studying how faculty are using the information to deliver targeted math instruction, and how useful such information is.

“You can’t change assessment and placement policies without also changing what is happening pedagogically in the classroom,” she adds.

Melguizo says they’re helping faculty create profiles of students in order to recognize areas where students struggle, and to assist in a potential curricular redesign that would better serve students.