There is a lot of talk about the connections among high school preparation, college readiness, and career success.
Yet, many high school students dont continue their education beyond graduation. Some dont fully grasp the importance of postsecondary education to their career options. Others mistakenly think theyre not college material or that college isnt financially feasible for them. And there are those who are so intimidated by the whole process that they dont even apply to college.
Fortunately, ACTs COMPASS® program can help all of these students succeed. COMPASS is a computer-adaptive assessment program delivered via the Internet or Windows software. Postsecondary institutions use it to evaluate incoming students skill levels in five subject areas: reading, writing skills, writing essay, mathematics, and English as a second language. COMPASS placement tests help match students with the right courses. COMPASS diagnostic tests provide more detailed information schools use to identify specific areas where students may need help.
As the emphasis on college and career readiness grows, so does the number of community colleges using COMPASS in their high school outreach programs. COMPASS helps with:
Heres how four community colleges have incorporated COMPASS in their high school outreach programs.
With an annual enrollment of 11,000 students, Lone Star College is one of the largest community colleges in the Houston metro area and the largest in the Lone Star College System. Its outreach program serves four urban high schools.
The college uses COMPASS as part of its McCabe Bridge Partnership Program, which focuses on early intervention and dual enrollment. The Bridge Partnership is a national program that partners community colleges with their local high schools. The program is designed to increase the number of students who aspire to go to college, to accelerate students preparation for college-level work, and to ease the transition to college entry and success.
Beginning in tenth grade, high school counselors recruit students to take COMPASS or the ASSET® Student Success System. ASSET is ACTs testing and advising program for student placement. It is offered in a paper-and-pencil format. The college tests about 3,000 students each semester, usually on Saturdays, at the high schools.
College advisors meet with high school staff, parents, and students to review assessment results. Students who are college ready learn about dual-credit and advanced classes. Advisors help unprepared students develop a plan to become college ready. Those students can retake COMPASS as juniors or seniors. College advisors provide students with ongoing guidance on such topics as financial aid, learning strategies, study skills, and career selection.
The high schools we serve have limited resources. Making COMPASS available to them has given many students the chance of a lifetime, said Anabell Hernandez, assessment coordinator. COMPASS really motivates them, and students who are motivated are much more likely to make a smooth transition to college.
Parkland College, which annually enrolls more than 10,000 students, serves the needs of District 505, the third-largest community college district in Illinois. The college offers COMPASS to 30 district high schools, and about a dozen of these test regularly.
Parkland started using COMPASS after noticing that large numbers of incoming students were unprepared for college, said Scott Thomason, high school assessment advisor. Our developmental courses had a low retention rate. Many students were dropping out because they couldnt handle the work.
Thomason goes to the high schools to administer COMPASS to Parkland-bound students. The college initially tests high school juniors, but doesnt use those results for enrollment.
By the time students are juniors, they have enough academic skills to do well on COMPASS and enough time to improve before the end of their senior year, he said. We test Parkland-bound students again in the spring or summer of their senior year, as we want to see where they are academically at the time of entry.
Thomason gives a presentation that covers the purpose of COMPASS, what the scores mean, how the results determine course placement, and how the program helps students avoid having to take developmental courses when they get to Parkland.
Palomar College is one of 108 colleges in the California Community Colleges system and eight in San Diego County. The college enrolls approximately 32,000 students annually.
Palomar College staff members Diane McAllister and Don Silliphant oversee local high school students as they take the COMPASS test. McAllister is the assessment coordinator/school relations, and Silliphant is the assessment assistant.
Every year, college staff administer COMPASS to approximately 10,000 incoming students. Most are seniors at 42 high schools in a predominantly rural area of north San Diego County. Both English-speaking and English as a second language students participate in the program. Graduating seniors who were unable to test earlier may take COMPASS on the Palomar campus. Students meet with a Palomar counselor to review their results and establish an education plan.
The college has been using COMPASS for years, but only recently incorporated it into its Early Acceptance Program (EAP). Graduating seniors apply for fall admission to Palomar and sign up for EAP with their high school counseling department. After students have taken COMPASS, they attend an on-campus session that includes an orientation, tour, and meetings with college representatives. They also register early for fall classes using priority registration, which occurs almost a month before other new and continuing students register. Parents attend the colleges parent orientations, which are held during the EAP event.
Diane McAllister, assessment coordinator/ school relations, believes COMPASS is the best tool for assessing students academic abilities. Students love COMPASS. They appreciate that its all on the computer and that they can find their results quickly and know the classes in English, reading, and math to enroll in. They actually thank me when they complete the test, she said.
NorthWest Arkansas Community College enrolls about 7,500 students annually and serves one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States.
Local students take the COMPASS test as part of the high school outreach program at NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, Arkansas.
College officials administer COMPASS at 20 high schools in mostly small, rural communities. The college uses the program in various ways, including early intervention, placement and diagnostics, and dual enrollment. Its also part of the colleges Step Ahead Program, a partnership between the college and area high schools designed to help students accelerate their progress toward a college degree. Students from participating high schools can take transferable college core curriculum courses in mathematics, communications, English, natural sciences, social sciences, behavioral sciences, and humanities. Between 400 and 500 students participate in Step Ahead each semester.
The college also uses COMPASS in its English as a second language outreach and Upward Bound programs and to test nontraditional college students. We enroll a lot of nontraditional students who are nervous about being able to handle college work. COMPASS shows them what they are capable of academically, which really boosts their confidence, said Shannon Siebler, testing coordinator.
We really like the flexibility and accuracy of COMPASS. Using it has increased our enrollment, access, and retention, she added. Anyone can walk in and take the test on demand. Students who are placed in the appropriate courses for their academic abilities are likely to be more successful.