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1. That answer depends on a lot of factors, not least of which is how
many developmental sections your college wants to run. A 40-point range
in COMPASS reading will take in varying percentages of students
depending on where it is on the scoring scale. At our school during fall
2009, for example, a range of 20 to 60 would have taken in 9 percent of
our test takers. A range of 30 to 70 would have taken in 20 percent. A
range of 35 to 75 would have taken in 28 percent. As to pedagogical
viability, I'd say that a 40-point spread would probably take in a huge
range of abilities.
2. Post-testing: One school of thought is that the test that puts
students into a developmental course should be the one that gets them
out. It's an appeal to fairness as well as validity, intended to
safeguard against the exit measure being so dissimilar from the
placement that it traps students in the developmental loop. The COMPASS
and N-D folks will love this argument because it sells more tests. On
the other hand, placement tests don't always make good achievement
tests. COMPASS is about recognizing best answers in a multiple choice
format, but it won't tell you some important things, such as how well a
student can summarize. Another downside is that some post-test gain (and
it's hard to know how much) will come simply from test-wiseness. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ross, Faye
Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2010 2:59 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Post testing in a reading course

Hi Everyone -

I have been asked about post-testing in a lower-level reading course at
a community college.  The course was eliminated, but several faculty
think the course is needed.  However, the administration has indicated
they will not restore the course unless COMPASS is used as a post-test
to evaluate the efficacy of the course.  I gather they are using COMPASS
as a placement mechanism.   They have heard the Nelson Denny might be a
better instrument.

They would prefer to use comprehensive reading assessment rather than
ANY standardized post-test, but they need to make a case for the course
in a way that will speak most effectively to the administration.

The two questions they asked me to post:

1) What is the largest range in COMPASS reading scores that should seat
students in a single fourteen-week developmental reading course? (Would
a nearly forty-point range be fair to students and pedagogically
viable?)

2) As a post-test for the lower of two levels of developmental reading,
what are the assets and liabilities of COMPASS and Nelson-Denny?

I'll pass on any input you can offer.

Thanks!

Faye Ross

Coordinator, Fundamentals of Reading
School of Liberal Arts
Philadelphia University
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