Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Measurement and Research

Major Professor

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yi-Hsin Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.


developmental education, placement testing, community college


The role of the community college is constantly evolving. At its inception in the early 1900’s, the community college’s broad focus was to provide quality, affordable education to the members of the community the college serves. Today, that focus remains the same, but has also morphed into one that meets the specific needs of its students. One of these needs that is a critical issue for community colleges relates to developmental education.

The assessment of developmental education has been a contentious subject among higher education institutions. Defining college readiness, methods describing how to measure it, and instruments with which to measure it, have all been issues that higher education researchers have debated. Using multilevel modeling, this study evaluated a customized developmental education assessment measure in a single community college in Florida, and its ability to correctly place students in appropriate courses.

The Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) was implemented in Florida in 2010 as the primary gauge of student readiness based on competencies identified by Florida’s high school, college and university faculty. PERT assesses these competencies in the areas of mathematics, reading and writing. The courses of interest in this study were four math courses offered in community colleges across Florida: Developmental Math I (MAT 0018), Developmental Math II (MAT 0028), Intermediate Algebra (MAT 1033), and College Algebra (MAC 1105).

The sample for Developmental Math I consisted of 727 students in 64 sections; for Developmental Math II, 900 students in 197 sections; for Intermediate Algebra, 713 students in 328 sections; and for College Algebra, 270 students in 204 sections. Five models were formulated to investigate the predictive validity of the PERT with final grades in the aforementioned math courses. These models also analyzed the relationships with student and course level predictors. Student level predictors included whether student had a first time in college status, student race/ethnicity, gender, student enrollment status (part-time or full-time), age, PERT score, and final grade in the math course. Course level variables consisted of employment status of instructor (part-time or full-time), the number of years the instructor had been employed, time of day of the course (day or evening), and the course delivery method (on campus or online).

Results of this study indicated that the PERT score was a significant predictor for Developmental Math I, Developmental Math II, and College Algebra showing a positive relationship with final grade in each of these courses. Four of the research questions inquired as to whether interaction effects with the PERT score and race, and PERT score and gender existed. No interaction were significant, which indicated that no differential predictive validity was evident. The remaining two research questions examined the level of variance associated with the student and course level variables. For Developmental Math I, Black students had lower final grades than White students, and older students performed better than younger students. In Developmental Math II, female students had higher final grades than males, and older students had higher grades. For the credit-level courses, in Intermediate Algebra, full-time students had higher final grades than part-time students, and once again, older students exhibited higher grades. In College Algebra, for the final model, only the PERT score was significant. No other student nor course level variables was found to be significant predictors of final grade.

These results are only a preliminary view of how PERT test scores relate to final math grades in only one institution in Florida. Statewide standard setting procedures are necessary in order to properly assess whether cut score for the PERT are appropriate, and to determine if this test is properly measuring the construct it intends in order to verify the reliability of the test items, and the validity of the test itself.