New students at Lake Washington Institute of Technology can now choose the level of math or English they think they can handle.
A technology institute in Kirkland is trying a new method of college placement that allows students to decide what math or English they should be taking.
The program is called “guided self-placement,” and it’s being tried by Lake Washington Institute of Technology, the state’s only public institute of technology. LWTech is part of the state’s community- and technical-college system.
Under the new system, students entering the college for the first time take a free math and English placement test designed by the college. After they get the results, they decide what classes they should start with in math and English.
Amy Morison Goings, the institute’s president, said studies show that students who can select their own course level are more engaged in their education.
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The college believes students who are highly motivated may be able to handle a higher-level math or English course than a standardized test suggests they need.
For the English placement test, students write an essay that is evaluated by the English faculty. For math placement, the institute uses an open-source library of math problems and allows students to use calculators to solve the problems.
The college received a $150,000 grant from College Spark Washington to make it possible to offer guided self-placement. The money is being used to improve intake and placement services for students.
College Spark is also funding similar programs at Highline College and Whatcom Community College.
The accuracy of college placement tests has come under fire in recent years after a 2012 study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College found that two of the most popular tests don’t do a good job of predicting student success.
The study found that up to a third of students who were placed in remedial classes as a result of their scores on the tests could have passed college-level classes with a B or higher.