Matthew Simpson’s guiding principle—to leave the community a better place—is something he learned from his father while on camping trips as a kid. The 33-year-old is well on his way to fulfilling this goal as a recent Springfield City Council addition, active community participant and visionary leader at Ozarks Technical Community College, where he is helping improve student outcomes every day through an innovative placement exam.
“For a long time, we used an ACT product called Compass to place students into their math and English courses, but the test results were not predictive of student success. When [ACT] discontinued it, we decided that was an opportunity to make a change. We looked at the evidence, found the factors that were predictive of success and then built our own guided self-placement instrument to provide students with recommendations for not only the course that was the best fit for them but also the support services and assistance that would help. Then we made the decision, which is a big deal in the community college world, to give students the choice. We’re going to give them the best possible recommendation, but ultimately, we’re going to trust that they know how to make the best decision and do our best to help them be successful.
“[Spring 2016] was the first semester we used it. Right away, we had a 10 percent increase in the number of first-time students completing college-level English and a 31 percent increase in the number of first-time students completing college-level math. For our underrepresented minority students, the gains have been much greater. We saw a 41 percent increase in college-level English completion and a 100 percent increase in college-level math completion within the first term. Before [students] had no choice under an instrument that was flawed. Now there’s a path to success.”
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