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California Community Colleges Common Assessment InitiativeThe California Community Colleges (CCC) system is taking a critical and complicated step to develop a common assessment that can help colleges determine whether students should take basic skills courses. One important distinction about this effort is how the results will be used. While the test and the assessment platform will be the same across the state, and colleges will receive multiple measures information, placement is still a local decision.

 “There is some fear that the state will be dictating cut scores and determining where students should be placed in courses, but those decisions will be faculty-driven at the local college level,” Common Assessment Initiative (CAI) Statewide Program Manager Jennifer Coleman said. “We want to make sure that faculty and staff understand that this is something they have control over. At the state level, the CAI is developing a common assessment: tests and a set of tools that colleges will have the opportunity to utilize. The results generated from these will be provided to counselors and faculty, which will then be interpreted locally in order to make placement decisions.”


Considering there are 112 community colleges in 72 separate districts in California, serving varied student populations and needs, there is a great deal of variety in how basic skills coursework is structured. Therefore, the test is being designed to assess prerequisite skills for both college-level and basic skills courses, rather than the content of individual basic skills curricula, Coleman explained.


Seeking Faculty Review Of Assessments


Over the summer and early fall, CAI work groups in English, Math and ESL drafted a continuum of competencies that address the full range of prerequisites skills found in California community college offerings, from letter recognition in ESL to college algebra skills in math. These competency maps will be used to help potential vendors understand the range of content that needs to be assessed in the common test.


“We are asking faculty to look at how these prerequisite skills align with their local curriculum to ensure that we have not missed anything in this continuum of competencies,” Coleman said. “We also want to make sure that we do not include things that are beyond the scope of what students need to know to be successful in a given course.”


Faculty from all colleges are now invited to provide feedback on these CAI assessment competency maps, which will be used to develop the common assessment test after this broad vetting across the system. CAI is reaching out to discipline-based groups, colleges, academic senates and all of the associated statewide listservs to encourage the broadest possible review of these documents. The feedback surveys will be open until midnight on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, and can be accessed via the CAI website (

Sandoval Chagoya is the TechEDge Executive Editor, Director of Outreach and Communications
for the Online Education Initiative, and a Project Manager for the
California Community Colleges Technology Center and the California Virtual Campus.