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Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation

  • Judith Scott-Clayton
  • Peter M. Crosta
  • Clive R. Belfield
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    At an annual cost of roughly $7 billion nationally, remedial coursework is one of the single largest interventions intended to improve outcomes for underprepared college students. But like a costly medical treatment with non-trivial side effects, the value of remediation overall depends upon whether those most likely to benefit can be identified in advance. Our analysis uses administrative data and a rich predictive model to examine the accuracy of remedial screening tests, either instead of or in addition to using high school transcript data to determine remedial assignment. We find that roughly one in four test-takers in math and one in three test-takers in English are severely mis-assigned under current test-based policies, with mis-assignments to remediation much more common than mis-assignments to college-level coursework. We find that using high school transcript information--either instead of or in addition to test scores--could significantly reduce the prevalence of assignment errors. Further, we find that the choice of screening device has significant implications for the racial and gender composition of both remedial and college-level courses. Finally, we find that if institutions took account of students' high school performance, they could remediate substantially fewer students without lowering success rates in college-level courses.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18457.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2012
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    Publication status: published as Improving the Targeting of Treatment Evidence From College Remediation Judith Scott-Clayton Peter M. Crosta Teachers College, Columbia University Clive R. Belfield The City University of New York Published online before print January 28, 2014, doi: 10.3102/0162373713517935 EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION AND POLICY ANALYSIS September 2014 vol. 36 no. 3 371-393
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18457
    Note: ED
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    1. Scott E. Carrell & Richard L. Fullerton & James E. West, 2008. "Does Your Cohort Matter? Measuring Peer Effects in College Achievement," NBER Working Papers 14032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eric P. Bettinger & Brent J. Evans & Devin G. Pope, 2011. "Improving College Performance and Retention the Easy Way: Unpacking the ACT Exam," NBER Working Papers 17119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2005. "Addressing the Needs of Under-Prepared Students in Higher Education: Does College Remediation Work?," NBER Working Papers 11325, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Judith Scott-Clayton & Olga Rodriguez, 2012. "Development, Discouragement, or Diversion? New Evidence on the Effects of College Remediation," NBER Working Papers 18328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Zimmerman, David J., 1999. "Peer Effects in Academic Outcomes: Evidence From a Natural Experiment," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-52, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    6. Rothstein, J.M.Jesse M., 2004. "College performance predictions and the SAT," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 297-317.
    7. Paco Martorell & Isaac McFarlin, 2011. "Help or Hindrance? The Effects of College Remediation on Academic and Labor Market Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 436-454, May.
    8. Bailey, Thomas & Jeong, Dong Wook & Cho, Sung-Woo, 2010. "Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 255-270, April.
    9. Juan Carlos Calcagno & Bridget Terry Long, 2008. "The Impact of Postsecondary Remediation Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach: Addressing Endogenous Sorting and Noncompliance," NBER Working Papers 14194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. David H. Autor & David Scarborough, 2008. "Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 219-277, 02.
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