WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College boosted math placements for incoming students in fall 2016 after deploying a pilot program that uses multiple measures to assess student skills, rather than relying on a single placement test.

More than 7,000 incoming students were assessed under the new system, which included overall high school GPA and an analysis by Rio Hondo College counselors of high school math courses completed.

As a result, 9.3 percent of students were placed into transfer-level math classes – the highest placement possible – up from 2.6 percent under the old system.

The second highest level of math placement also received a boost in student placements, while the three lowest levels saw a drop in student placements.

The same system was used for English placements.

“Our multiple measures pilot effort was a complete success, showing that a more nuanced approach to assessing our students’ capabilities can help propel them to success,” Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said. “Now, our next step is to expand efforts like this that support our students as they pursue their higher education goals.”

Low placements in math and English have been cited as causes for derailing college pursuits, especially among students at California’s community colleges.

Rio Hondo College participates in several related efforts to strengthen student support, including a Summer Bridge Academy that allows students to get a jumpstart on math instruction and a program to support students at California State University, Los Angeles who are struggling with basic math and English skills.

“It’s a real ray of light to see this improvement in placements,” Rio Hondo College Board of Trustees President Norma Edith Garcia said. “This is an essential element in the suite of tools we are crafting to ensure student success.”