Issues in Basic Skills Assessment and Placement in the California Community Colleges

Basic Skills Committee

When the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges compiled best practices for serving basic skills students in 2002-2003, assessment practices were notably absent. In this paper, problems with current assessment and placement practices with regards to basic skills are explored. The paper begins with a review of the matriculation process and the most appropriate assessment instruments for use in placing basic skills students into courses. Issues confronting the assessment and placement process are presented, including the stigma of the "basic skills" label, the particular difficulties faced by non-native speakers of English, and the lack of resources for adequate orientation and counseling for entering basic skills students. Concerns about the disparity between the number of students assessed and the number who actually enroll in basic skills are also reviewed. The paper moves on to discuss how best to measure "success" in basic skills, vital to appropriate evaluation of our current assessment and placement processes. Based on the discussion in the paper, several recommendations for improving the overall success of basic skills students in the community colleges are made.