E. J. FULLER, J. M. DESHLER

Copyright © 2013 SciRes.

Table 8.

SAT and ACT math score averages by grade in calculus I.

Grades All Students Entry Path

Entry From College Algebra Calculus I Direct Placement

ACT Mathematics Averages

A

N = 510

σ = 3.535

N = 54

σ = 2.430

N = 290

σ = 3.057

A, B or C

N = 1568

σ = 3.803

N = 329

σ = 2.776

N = 771

σ = 2.921

SAT Mathematics Averages

A

N = 432

σ = 63.286

N = 38

σ = 41.883

N = 242

σ = 57.96

A, B or C

N = 1534

N = 312

N = 785

We see that much higher average scores are observed in both

cases for successful students than the previous cutoffs that were

used prior to 2008.

Conclusion

We antic ipat e the current placement process to provide better

placement for all students placing into a WVU undergraduate

mathematics courses, and believe the data indicates somewhat

conclusively that this is the case for our mainstream Calculus I

course. However, appropriate placement is only one part of a

more complete approach to ensuring student success that in-

cludes implementing best teaching practices, appropriate as-

sessment and feedback techniques and teaching for under-

standing. In particular, assessment of student performance in

prerequisite courses such as college algebra and the subsequent

performance of these students in calculus, as well as the per-

formance of student in successor courses such as Calculus II,

Calculus III and other upper division courses are also essential

elements of a properly functioning placement process. We be-

lieve the change in placement at our institution is the first step

to encourage as many of our 29,000 students as possible to

succeed in mathematics and persist in the study of mathematics

and science. Further work will be described in subsequent pub-

lications relating to student performance in precursor and suc-

cessor courses, as well as more refined analyses of student per-

formance for demographic subsets.

SAT and ACT Ma th Scores of Successful Students

Given the success rates observed for prior SAT and ACT

math cutoffs, it is reasonable then to ask what scores do corre-

late with success in calculus for these tests. Table 8 shows the

average ACT mathematics score and average SAT mathematics

score for students who in the first row obtained an A in the

Calculus I. In the second row, the average scores for students

obtaining an A, B or C are shown. We further break these down

by entry via placement or using credit for college algebra as a

previous course.

In this data we see that the average score of successful stu-

dents overall is 1.47 points higher than the original ACT cutoff

and almost exactly the same for the SAT cutoff. After subset-

ting by entry path, we see, however, that students entering via

prior coursework skew this average downwards, and that stu-

dents entering via placement show ACT math averages a full

3.62 points higher and SAT math averages 34.67 points higher.

Both of these are close to a standard deviation above the prior

cutoffs, suggesting that these earlier placement criteria were too

low for students without prior coursework, and that the new

placement process is more effective. Further work needs to be

done to see if alternative cutoffs for SAT and ACT scores could

be used.

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