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Our district has changed its approach to placing students in grades 6 and 7 math classes. Students considered for placement above grade level must now take a test composed of problems drawn from the next-level CMP textbook: for instance, in the spring of grade 5 they take a test based on problems from the CMP 6 textbook. Students must score 95% or better on this test to be placed above grade level; otherwise they will be in CMP 6 in 6th grade. Teacher input and scores from standardized tests are not considered. I cannot find data supporting the use of this method. Do you have any comments on the usefulness of this approach to placement?

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    $\begingroup$ not knowing anything more than the few sentences you typed above, i would say this is not a good way to determine placement. My main concerns are: 1) how can you assess students on content they have not been taught yet? 2) students may be burnt out by this point in the school year when they take the test and might not fully understand the implications so might not try very hard (esp. if it is not for a grade) 3) basing placement solely on a test score can often be precarious, teacher input and previous performance should always be considered $\endgroup$ – celeriko Nov 10 '14 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @celeriko, normally I'd agree, but this is to skip a class. Seems reasonable to test on the course material the student would miss. $\endgroup$ – Sue VanHattum Nov 11 '14 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ Certainly part of advanced placement should be assessment of whether kids have learned things "they haven't been taught", that is, have learned by taking initiative to read books, look on-line, and so on. Teachers may or may not be aware of this, and previous performance in classes such kids find boring may also be misleading... That is, I am entirely in favor of giving kids a chance to "test out" of math (and other) classes. No need to insist on (artificial) organization of kids' educations, etc. $\endgroup$ – paul garrett Nov 11 '14 at 16:00
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There are many flaws in this system, but there aren't many other ways.

As @celeriko pointed out, testing on material that has not been taught yet is dangerous. It can result in not promoting a fast learner who is truly "gifted", but rather promoting a kid who worked for hours the week before the test on the next year's textbook, on the way attaining many holes in their math and hurting them in the long run.

On the flip side, if a student is truly talented and learns fast, they should have taken initiative, possibly through their parents, to explore higher math by now and should be comfortable with the next year's concepts.

Your concerns are valid, and they should definitely be also integrating teacher input and grade on the current class to ensure social maturity, capability of learning, and consistent performance. In summary, the test itself is fairly useless without external validation, at which time it becomes useful enough to make the decision.

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In America at least, there is a strong emphasis on "social" promotion, and keeping children with their "peer group."

Thus, they won't allow promotion to the "second" level above the current one, unless a student can get a 95% on a test before going into the "next" one. This is a difficult (but not insurmountable) hurdle.

Basically, the American grade school systems want to make special provision only for students that are clearly "gifted," not merely "good."

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