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Zach Sullivan, Reporter

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In an effort to persuade students to take pilot assessment tests in language arts and mathematics, Bakersfield College is offering $20 gift cards to Target, according to Sue Vaughn, director of Enrollment Services at BC.

The cards were paid for by the state of California and issued through the chancellor’s office, Vaughn said. BC is one of 12 pilot programs collecting data through the assessment tests, which are taking place throughout the state.

The program’s goal is to create a more efficient system that better places students based upon their results from the assessment tests as well as making their assessment scores from one school accessible at any other community college if they decide not to attend the original school where they took their assessment exams.

Vaughn said the gift cards are an incentive to persuade students to take an assessment, if not two exams that do not benefit them in any other way.

Students will receive a $20 Target gift card for completing either the mathematics or language arts tests, and $40 in gift cards for completing both.

Vaughn explained this is the second time BC has offered the gift cards in exchange for students completing the pilot assessment tests. “We had one pilot test last spring, and they didn’t get enough data from that around the state to be sure that all of the questions were valid questions, and so they’re doing it again to get more questions validated so were giving them out again now,” she said.

“This time were trying to get people at specific levels, so we’ve tried to arrange instructors to bring whole classes, and they’ve been very cooperative in doing that, but we’re also making it available to any students that want to come in and take the tests.”

Vaughn believes that the adopted series of new statewide electronic services will make it easier for students all over the state by not forcing them to retest at every community college they attend.

“If you took your assessment test somewhere else and you decide to come here, we will be able to pull up your scores. We will set our own placements, so your scores might mean something different at the two schools, but you wouldn’t have to retest, which will save a lot of hassle for students, and frankly a lot of time and money for the colleges,” she said.

“The third round of testing which is called field testing, will not only take place at the pilot colleges but at our sister colleges as well. So students at Porterville and Cerro Coso will be able to be a part of it, and I assume that there will be gift cards again. In the meantime, we’re learning how to use the test. If all goes well with the field testing, we will actually be using that test to evaluate our incoming students starting this fall.”

Vaughn believes the new electronic services the state is implementing will benefit students in more ways than just making them not have to take assessment exams at every community college they attend.

“I think this will help place students more accurately. We have automated multiple measures so our high school seniors, when they take the test, have already uploaded their high school GPAs, and if they have a high enough GPA will move them up to a higher level placement. We will still be doing that with this new test, but if it’s already a little bit finer test to place students more accurately,” she said.

Vaughn believes the improved placement testing will help place students in courses that are not too hard, yet still challenging. “We don’t want students to start too low and waste time, but not start too high and not be able to succeed. That doesn’t help them to have bad grades on their record, even if they retake the class.”

The only downside, according to Vaughn, is the lack of a writing assessment on the new exams. Vaughn claims that the school has been without a writing assessment before, though, and that not having it makes only a small difference, she said.

Vaughn explained that the assessment testing will run until April 4, or until they run out of gift cards to give students.

She said once the gift cards are gone, the testing period is over, and that she believes this will most likely be the last time the school gives the gift cards away in return for completing the pilot testing exams.

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Free gift cards for practice test