Using MDTP Tests For Placement

New:  The online placement testing platform is up and ready.  See the latest post for more info

MDTP diagnostic tests are designed to give teachers, schools, and students information about course and student strengths and weaknesses.  One of the goals of the MDTP field testing is to ensure that students who do well on the tests, do well in the course; students who perform poorly on the test, do poorly in the course.  Therefore, it is no surprise to learn that independent research, teachers and schools have found MDTP tests very helpful in placing students into their math classes.

With the passage of SB359, The California Mathematics Act of 2015, MDTP decided to develop assessments specifically to support schools and districts in their placement of ninth graders.  These assessments are expected to be available in early April 2017.

Placement Materials and Services

The materials and services MDTP offers to support placement and SB359 compliance include:

  • Placement test (specifically designed to support placement of entering 9th graders).
    • For 9th grade placement testing prior to the April 2017 pilot release,  please use the appropriate diagnostic test (usually the High School Readiness Test, HS45A15 for students completing Math 8; the Integrated Math 2 Test, IT45D15 for students completing Integrated Math 1; the Geometry Readiness, GR45A06 for student completing Algebra 1)
    • Other grades will use the appropriate diagnostic test.
  • Diagnostic test for first month placement checkpoint (required for SB359 compliance).
  • Detailed results reports and spreadsheets.
  • Support in the effective and appropriate use of the tests and results reports.

These materials and services are provided at no charge to accredited California secondary schools and teachers through the MDTP UC/CSU partnership to support math instruction.

Guidelines for Placement

MDTP recommends the following six guidelines for creating individual placement policies.

  1. Use multiple measures for placement. Using multiple measures leads to better equity and access to courses and is required for SB359 compliance.
  2. Consider placement recommendations based on both total score and topic scores for a placement test. MDTP provides both a total score and, depending on the test, 5-8 topic scores. While two students might receive the same total score, their topic scores can differ significantly. Some districts use topic scores for particular topics, e.g., FRAC on the High School Readiness Test, to help them determine readiness for a specific course (such as for Algebra I or Math 1).
  3. Provide students some diagnostic feedback about their preparation for a course. Diagnostic feedback to the student should be a significant part of any placement process. Even though a student might place into a course, he or she might have some weaknesses in specific topic areas. By informing the student of these weak topics, the placement process enables the student to review these topics before starting the course and can improve their chance of success.
  4. Consider recommending students for a lower course but allowing them to enroll in a higher course. Some students will score at or near a cut score and could be placed into either course. Consider recommending the student take the course one level lower to gain a stronger foundation in the prerequisite content. Typically, these students will be weaker than their peers in several topic areas and may struggle in the higher course.
  5. Use content experts to establish initial cut scores or score ranges. Teachers and other content experts familiar with the range of courses covered by the placement test should determine the initial cut scores or score ranges. The ETS publication, A Primer on Setting Cut Scores on Tests of Educational Achievement, is an excellent resource that provides guidance on what to consider when setting cut scores and how to go about setting cut scores. Districts should consider several factors when establishing initial cut scores, including what support classes and intervention programs are available to help struggling students. Successful support programs can allow districts to set lower cut scores and place more students into a course.
  6. Evaluate how well the placement program is working and adjust as needed. The ETS Primer emphasizes that cut scores must be validated and that practitioners should be prepared to make changes if experience shows that the cut scores aren’t meeting their intended purpose. Continued use of test results for placement must be based on the relationship between those results and subsequent course performance. This analysis must be undertaken at each school and for each course to determine cut scores and placement ranges as long as the placement test is in use.

Your site director is happy to support you in this process! At UCLA, contact Mary Sirody,



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