Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Vena M. Long

Committee Members

Donald J. Dessart, C. Edward Roeske, Edward Counts


Current regulations in the Tennessee Board of Regents system place students into developmental or regular classes based solely on scores on either the ACT or COMPASS. This study examined whether a combination of other readily available factors might better predict a student’s success.

Students at East Tennessee State University taking elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, and probability and statistics (the core math class at the university) were surveyed in Fall, 2004, to find out when they took their last mathematics class in high school and what mathematics courses they took in high school. Other variables were obtained from the student information system when available: age; ACT/SAT composite, mathematics, and reading scores or COMPASS reading, arithmetic, and intermediate algebra scores; overall high school GPA, and final grade in the course they were taking. End-of-semester grades (the dependent variables) were correlated with the other independent variables. Stepwise multiple regression equations were attempted for each course – one for students with ACT scores and another for students with COMPASS scores – to see whether several of the independent variables together could predict these grades.

For students in elementary algebra, end-of-course grades were significantly correlated with COMPASS reading scores and overall high school GPA. Grades in intermediate algebra were significantly correlated with ACT mathematics and English scores, COMPASS arithmetic and intermediate algebra scores, number of college preparatory mathematics classes taken in high school, and overall high school GPA. Grades in probability and statistics were correlated with the same variables as intermediate algebra except for COMPASS reading.

Regression equations to predict grades were possible for traditional age students (students with ACT scores) in all three courses with high school GPA and a few other scores as independent variables. For nontraditional students, the regression equations were only possible for intermediate algebra and statistics using COMPASS arithmetic scores. No regression equation was possible for elementary algebra.

The equations found could be used to target students who might be in danger of failing and be referred to additional sources of help. It is further recommended that study be repeated for spring and summer semesters.

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