USC Community College

USC Community College

New Publications:

★  Progression through Dev Math, by Kristen E. Fong, Tatiana Melguizo, and George Prather

Description of Assessment and Placement Policies, by Tatiana Melguizo, Holly Kosiewicz, George Prather, and Johannes M. Bos

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of developmental math placement policies on student success in community college. The main research question that guides the study is: What are the effects of placement decisions on the educational outcomes of community college students? To answer this question we draw on economic and governance theories and employ quantitative and qualitative methods to explore how assessment and placement policies are designed and implemented and how effective they are in ensuring student progress through the developmental math sequence.

The research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES).


    1. Description of the assessment and placement (A&P) policies: The decentralized nature of the governance structure of the LACCD implies that each college in the district has the discretion to set the A&P policies that best fit the students in their colleges. This has resulted in very different A&P policies in each of the nine colleges that we document in great detail.
    2. Evaluate A&P policies for developmental math on student success in developmental education trajectory: We used a regression-discontinuity design (RDD) within a time hazard model to estimate the effect of assignment to different levels of the preparatory math trajectory on short- and long-term educational outcomes. The outcomes we examined relate to a student’s academic performance and include:
    • passing the subsequent course of the sequence
    • accumulating over 30 credits in degree applicable courses
    • accumulating over 30 credits in transfer-level courses

We chose a RDD approach because this is a technique that enables the researcher to make causal inferences when randomization is not feasible. The general idea is that the researcher “assigns” individuals to the treatment and control groups rather than the fair coin toss that is common in randomized trials. Employing a regression discontinuity design, we run an intent to treat (ITT) analysis to measure the effectiveness of assessment and placement policies on student success. We also contribute to the literature by running a hazard model to estimate the effectiveness of these policies over time as well as evaluate how the impact of these policies varies across the courses that constitute the math sequence.

Research Papers

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Los Angeles Community College District

Over the past seventy-seven years, the Los Angeles Community College District has served as educator to more than three million students. Affordable, accessible and practical, the LACCD offers opportunity to all. Our doors are wide open for a diverse student population eager for skills, knowledge and upward mobility. LACCD educates almost three times as many Latino students and nearly four times as many African-American students as all of the University of California campuses combined. Eighty percent of LACCD students are from underserved populations.

Community colleges serve adults of all ages, meeting the needs of a society where “lifelong learning” is the rule and multiple careers and continual retraining are the norm. More than half of all LACCD students are older than 25 years of age, and more than a quarter are 35 or older. More than any other California system of higher education, community colleges offer a first – and a second – chance for anyone who wants to succeed.

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Dr. Tatiana Melguizo
Phone: (213) 740-3635