Category Archives: Education

Improving Performance for Entering College Students

A state university wanted to increase the success rate of incoming students in their “Gateway” courses. Gateway courses are pre-college level Math and English courses that students must pass before moving on to credit courses if they do not have the qualifications to place them directly into college level courses. There were eight Math and five English Gateway courses. Most of these were sequenced so that a student who needed to start with the first in the sequence may need to take as many as 3-4 courses before their first college credit course. For example, the courses a student needed to complete in Math depended on whether they were in the Science, Education, Social Sciences or Business track.

A student’s work in a course was considered a success if they achieved at least a B-. Our objective was to predict success based on many of the factors that could be related to whether a student would be successful in a specific (Gateway or first college credit) course. We used data sources such as

Pre-college data

  • Placement testing results
  • High school coursework and grades
  • High school attended
  • Date of last course in Math or English (and grade)
  • If English is the student’s first language
  • GED completion if no high school degree
  • Demographic data
  • Veteran status

Previous Gateway courses

  • Courses started, completed and grades
  • Instructors
  • Time since last course

Next Gateway or college credit course

  • Instructor
  • Student status (e.g. PT/FT, number of concurrent courses)
  • Student employment status (number of hours per week)
  • Number of classroom sessions per week
  • Classroom hours per week

The resulting model worked quite well in predicting the success of each student in the next Gateway or college credit course. The school is using this model to make recommendations to students as to which Gateway course they should take next as well as advising students on how to be successful in their next course. Administrators and faculty may use these results to improve the sequence of gateway courses for all students. Finally, there was one accelerated Gateway Math course that could be taken in one quarter or taken at a slower pace as two courses over two quarters. The study helped the school understand who should not be taking this accelerated course.