A 2017 bill is expected to be widely implemented this fall across all California community colleges.
Assembly Bill 705 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, 2017. The law prohibits California community colleges from using placement tests to determine eligibility for prerequisite courses.
“We should see a reduction in ‘time to completion’ for the majority of community college students, as well as a significant closure of achievement gaps for underrepresented students,” says Alice Perez, a spokesperson for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. “We will achieve core goals in the Vision for Success, which Chancellor Eloy Oakley refers to as ‘the Civil Rights call of our time.’”
Text in the bill requires students to self-report high school grades. According to the bill, this new process is meant to combat assessments that do not represent students from low-income communities. The Chancellor’s office does have the power to create a universal statewide assessment, but they have not done so yet.
“There may be an assessment instrument submitted to the Board of Governors for ESL, but the Advisory Group has not concluded its research and analysis in this area,” says Perez.
This bill will see an influx of students in entry-level English and math classes rather than taking remedial classes.
While the remedial classes will still be available, students will now have to elect to take them independent of the administration or faculty. Tutoring courses and ESL programs are not affected by the bill.
“There are no direct costs associated with AB 705; however, colleges are using Student Equity and Achievement (SEA) Program and Equity funds to help support efforts on their campuses,” says Perez. SEA funds allow underprivileged students to get the help they need.
Jacqui Irwin, the Assemblymember for California’s 44th Assembly District, authored and championed the bill on the assembly floor.
“Education is the key to equipping Californians with the skills necessary to succeed in our rapidly changing world. This bill addresses a flaw in our education system that led to far too many individuals leaving higher education because their efforts were not reflected in progress towards a credential,” says Irwin.
Assemblymember Irwin serves on the Assembly Committee for Higher Education, where the bill began. According to the California Legislative Information website, the bill was passed with all members either voting in favor of the bill or abstaining.
She believes in the importance of starting a college career in the right spot.
“Numerous peer-reviewed studies have found that being under-placed is a primary factor in a student’s decision to drop out of higher education,” says Irwin.
A November 2016 study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California stated that 80% of community college students enroll in one or more remedial courses and only 16% of those students complete a certificate program or earn an Associate’s degree in six years.
“AB 705 does not ban remedial courses,” says Irwin. “It changes how community colleges place students into the coursework that is appropriate for them and how student support resources are provided. The bill requires California community colleges to use the best of multiple measures, including high school grades, coursework, GPA, and assessment tests, when placing students into math, English, and ESL courses.”
National data cited in the bill shows that 14% of students from low-income communities earn an Associate’s degree and only 13% earn a Bachelor’s degree.
The impact of this bill can be seen at Visalia’s College of the Sequoias.
Remedial classes like English 251 and 261 have been offered in the past, but the administration is choosing to not offer those classes next fall in favor of more mainstream English classes. Elementary-level algebra classes are disappearing as well.
The Mathematics department is instead offering more support for existing classes.