Controversy over developmental math changes

Controversy erupted at Weber State University this week as students reacted to new changes made by the developmental math department.

The Weber State Developmental Math Program is rolling out changes to their assessment and placement policy. These new changes eliminate the Accuplacer, a national standardized test, and place more emphasis on student ACT scores.

Students who enrolled prior to May 5 may still use the old standards of placement up to August 25.

“We’ve done extensive research and found that Accuplacer does not do a good job of placing students in developmental math at Weber State,” said Kathryn Von Wagoner, director of WSU developmental math.

Students will now be placed in a math class based on a weighted rubric using their ACT math score and their high school GPA.

Unlike previous years there is no expiration date on these scores. If a student has a thirty-year-old ACT score it can still be used for placement.

A committee consisting of Von Wagoner, the dean of science, Dave Matty and other school officials decided the changes. According to Von Wagoner the changes were made with the best interests of students in mind.

“Despite common beliefs, we’re not trying to keep students in developmental math,” Von Wagner said. She added her main concern is helping students be successful and graduate.

If a student wishes to challenge their placement, they have the option of testing out by taking a math mastery exam, which consists of 30 questions.

The Accuplacer will still be used to place students in math classes for their quantitative literacy credit, which consists of Math 1030 and above.

“I see it as an improvement,” said Jeffery Henry, executive vice president of the student senate.

Not everyone is pleased with the changes. Some students have expressed concerns over the rules that state the math mastery exam can only be taken once a year.

Concerns were also raised about whether someone has to take the math mastery exam before taking the Accuplacer.

Responding to students via email Von Wagoner said, “It is not the intent of either the mathematics department, nor the developmental mathematics program to require students to meet a prerequisite in order to take the Accuplacer test. This would put an undue burden on any student who does not have an ACT score – international students, as one example. I am working to get that information corrected.” 

“She (Von Wagoner) is trying to paint this picture of these changes being beneficial to students,” Lauralee Kohl, a peer adviser at the non-traditional center, said. “It’s clearly not better.”

Kohl is starting a petition to revert the changes.

Von Wagoner said that this is a transitional period and they are still tweaking things.

She said she  is working on changes to the number of attempts a student can make on the math mastery test.

Kohl said, having enrolled in 2011, she doesn’t think it’s fair to keep changing the rules.

“It’s only 12 credits of the 120 needed to gain a bachelor’s degree, yet they put all this energy and time into it,” Kohl said.

She pointed out all the changes that have been made, including limiting the number of times the Accuplacer can be taken, and raising the threshold on the score needed to test out.

“It’s going to force more students into developmental math. It’s going to lower graduation rates,” Kohl said.

Joanna Bushnell, a senior who said she is currently held up by math, said that her main concern is the limit on the amount of tests.

“It  looks like Weber State is just trying to make money by forcing students to take their math classes,”  Bushnell said.

Other universities in the state allow for unlimited tries on the Accuplacer. Weber State currently limits it to two in a year.

Acerplacer, a local company which provides an alternative math course, recently sent out a email to their students advising them of the changes.

“Our main concern is that these changes were made right after students left for the summer and they go into effect before students get back,” Jared Zemp, the owner of Acerplacer, said.

Tyler Hall, the student senator for Davis Campus, said that he thinks the changes are good and everyone needs to stop freaking out and read the fine print.

“It’s beautiful system,” he said.