Highline College has been awarded a $150,000 grant by College Spark Washington to improve math placement practices, which can improve students’ chances of graduating. The grant will enhance Highline’s current work to more accurately gauge each student’s ability in math.

This is important work because students who begin with college-level math immediately upon entering college are far more likely to earn a college degree than students who need to begin with remediation courses.

“The college’s focus on eliminating barriers to student success has benefited from reform in the math curriculum,” said Dr. Jack Bermingham, Highline’s president. “We’re grateful to College Spark for this grant that will support additional innovation in our math placement strategies.”

Research has indicated that many placement tests used by community colleges are not reliable predictors of student performance in college. It is estimated that as many as 30 percent of students placed in remedial education could have succeeded in college-level courses.

Highline’s grant will be used to further refine the placement process to include increased student participation, pre-placement advising, multiple measures for assessment, and requiring students with a remedial placement to attend a workshop and retest.

“Engaging students is critical to understanding the breadth of their skills and the prior experience they bring to our college,” said Shannon Waits, director of Academic Assessment and Placement at Highline. “Historically the assessment process has been one size fits all, which has left students out of the process, reducing them to a score. This grant opportunity allows us to continue our work in creating a participatory and dynamic placement process, one that validates the whole of our students and ensures proper course assessment and placement.”

The goal is to have students begin in credit-bearing math courses whenever possible, instead of remedial courses.

The annual, competitive statewide College Spark Community Grants program focuses on building the effectiveness of grantees working with low-income students in middle school, high school and college by funding new and promising practices that help students be college-ready and transition successfully to college.

Questions? Contact Shannon Waits at (206) 592-3607 or swaits@highline.edu.