Melguizo and PhD student Ngo publish articles on math placement policy

April 8, 2016

Builds on research supported by two-year grant from the NSF

Tatiana Melguizo

Dr. Tatiana Melguizo

Third-year PhD student Federick Ngo and Associate Professor Tatiana Melguizo have published two new articles exploring strategies to improve placement outcomes in developmental math. In fall 2015, Ngo and Melguizo were awarded a two-year, $299,753 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate how combining high school transcript data with math diagnostic data can improve the accuracy of student placement in developmental math courses.

In “How Can Placement Policy Improve Math Remediation Outcomes? Evidence From Experimentation in Community Colleges,” published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Ngo and Melguizo examine the impact of math placement policy in one of the largest community college districts in California (LUCCD). Many district colleges have switched from using math diagnostics to using computer-adaptive tests, a change Ngo and Melguizo found exacerbates the penalty of remediation for marginal students and results in more placement errors. The study recommends that practitioners revisit using math diagnostics as a placement tool and experiment with lowering placement cutoffs instead of raising them.

Federick Ngo

Federick Ngo

Published in Research in Higher Education, “Using a Regression Discontinuity Design to Estimate the Impact of Placement Decisions in Developmental Math” evaluates the effectiveness of math placement policies for entering community college students. The study found that while some students initially placed in lower-level math courses have worse educational outcomes than those placed in higher-level courses, for others the positive effect of being placed in a higher-level math course becomes insignificant over time.

Ngo will be presenting two papers at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in Washington, DC. On Saturday, April 9, he will present a paper with Jenna Sablan and Q. Tien Le: “Asian and Pacific Islander Progression through Community College: Disaggregating the Data.” And on Monday, April 12, he will present along with fellow students Elizabeth Park and Edward Chi: “Selection on Noncognitive Traits: Possibilities for Community College Students.”


For a complete list of faculty and student presentations, visit