Implementing Support Strategies for At-Risk Students: Lessons Learned from North Carolina’s Multiple Measures Study
Speakers - Susan Barbitta, North Carolina Community College System Office and Sue Clery, Coffey Consulting


Friday, April 20 – 9:00 a.m.

Research has shown that high school grade point average (HS GPA) is a better predictor of postsecondary student success than traditional placement tests. In 2014, North Carolina adopted a Multiple Measures for Placement policy that uses the student’s HS GPA as the primary means for placement. Although many colleges and states consider HS GPA in making placement decisions, North Carolina is one of the premier states currently relying solely on HS GPA. Upon implementing this Multiple Measures for Placement policy, and using HS GPA as the primary means for placement, the North Carolina colleges saw an increase in the share of their first-time students entering college-ready—increasing from 21 percent to 53 percent of students at a sample of the colleges. Although vetted by a range of stakeholders, there was concern that students with HS GPAs near the waiver cut-off may struggle to succeed in college-level coursework.

In response to this concern, six of the North Carolina community colleges participated in a research study and evaluation. Through this study, staff at these six colleges developed intensive student support strategies, which were required of students in the target group – those deemed potentially academically at-risk, and would have likely been placed into developmental education using traditional placement tests — successfully complete foundational college-level courses. Upon implementing the support strategies, the six North Carolina colleges closely monitored and evaluated their student outcomes and made adjustments to their strategies, as needed.

During this session, the experience of the participating colleges was discussed, including their approach to strategy design and implementation, challenges and facilitators, and the students’ experiences and academic outcomes. Evaluation findings were shared, including evidence that the support strategies made a difference for the targeted students and worked to close equity gaps. The policy’s current evolutions was also discussed.

The North Carolina Community College System Office recently assessed students’ academic achievement levels by HS GPA. They are in process with proposed system-wide adjustments to the multiple measures policy, including (1) the high school GPA threshold for allowing students to go directly to college level coursework, and (2) adding a requirement for academically borderline students to enroll in a defined corequisite support.