Date of Award

6-12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Christine D. Thomas - Chair

Second Advisor

Nikita D. Patterson

Third Advisor

Mary B. Shoffner

Fourth Advisor

Lou Edward Matthews

Fifth Advisor

John H. Neel

Abstract

Statement of the Problem The national six-year graduation rate is less than 60 percent. This alarming yet consistent feature of higher education has led researchers like Bean (1980), Tinto (1975, 1993), Astin (1993), Adelman (1999), Braxton (2000) and DesJardins (2002) to create a body of research which attempts to explain the causes of student attrition and suggest possible interventions. Learning Communities and Freshman Experience courses are two efforts to improve retention which are derived from this research. The purpose of this study was to test portions of Tinto’s longitudinal model of institutional departure that relates academic fit to persistence and degree completion. The study examined placement testing and advising procedures and the effects these procedures have on eventual degree completion. The results of this study should inform the academic community about the efficacy of using a placement test to promote academic fit for first time freshmen enrolled in mathematics courses. Method This quantitative study was an ex-post facto, quasi experimental design which compared three procedures for placement into the initial college mathematics course and the impact on retention and eventual degree completion. The data for this study was obtained from existing data sources. Logistic regression was used to compare the three placement methods and the effect on the odds of eventual degree completion. Results While the placement instrument did provide some useful information for placement decisions about some courses, it does not provide as much information as other available measures, in particular, the high school history expressed as the grade point average. Quality point production at the end of the first year was found to be a strong predictor of eventual graduation. The results suggest that for each one unit increase in the quality points earned the odds of graduation are 1.042 times better. Statistically significant differences were found in the efficacy of the different placement methods; however these differences were overshadowed by the effect of the introduction of a new mathematics course. The average grade in the initial collegiate math class for the groups in this study has risen from a low of 1.87 to 2.37 after the introduction of Math Modeling to the curriculum.

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