Dozens of community colleges offer remedial classes; bill to ban them awaits Newsom’s signature

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San Diego Miramar College is one of dozens of community colleges in California that still offer remedial classes, though it has significantly reduced its offering of such classes and faculty hope to phase them out soon.

Remedial education at California’s community colleges is facing a deathblow.

Awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature is a bill that would primarily ban remedial courses in math and English, which cannot be transferred for credit to four-year colleges. If he signs the bill, it will affect more than 40 colleges that continue to offer these courses five years after the state told them to allow students to bypass classes.

Assembly Bill 1705 rocketed through the state legislature, winning the approval of lawmakers who are frustrated that some students are still being directed to remedial classes. Lawmakers argue that many colleges offering remedial classes are violating the spirit of a 2017 law, Assembly Bill 705, which states that colleges cannot place students in remedial classes at unless they are highly unlikely to pass transfer level courses.

The new law builds on the first by creating stricter rules detailing the limited scenarios in which colleges are allowed to enroll students in remedial courses. Certain groups of students would be exempt from having to go directly to transfer-level classes, such as certain students with disabilities, students who have not graduated from high school, and students in certain college programs. professional technical education. A college could also enroll a student in a remedial course if it can prove, based on the student’s high school grades, that the student would be more likely to earn a degree by doing so.

Colleges would be expected to enroll the rest of the students in transfer level classes.

Last spring, each community college was required to submit a report to the chancellor’s office detailing whether it planned to offer remedial classes in fall 2022. More than a third of the system’s 115 physical colleges – 46 of them — said they would, according to data obtained by EdSource via a Public Records Act request. These colleges are spread throughout the state, from the College of the Siskiyous near the Oregon border to the San Diego Community College District.

“There are a lot of schools that have fallen behind in implementing 705,” the Assemblyman said. Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, author of AB 705 and new legislation. “So we really wanted to tighten up 705 to ensure that every student is encouraged to take transfer level courses.

The new bill has met with some opposition, including from the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, a statewide advocacy group. The faculty group says some students benefit from these courses but will not be able to take them if the law is passed.

Irwin is confident that Newsom will sign the bill. The bill did not receive a single opposition vote in the Legislative Assembly, and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis endorsed it. This year’s budget deal also included $64 million for colleges to help students take transfer-level math and English courses. Newsom Finance Department took a neutral stance on the bill.

Irwin and other critics of remedial education point to research showing that pre-transfer classes are often a barrier for students. Prior to AB 705, only 16% of students taking remedial courses earned a certificate or associate’s degree within six years, and only 24% transferred to a four-year college, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Research has also shown that black and Latino students enroll at disproportionately high rates in these classes.

Remedial classes across the state have already declined significantly since the original law was passed. This fall, 93% of introductory math classes in the state are transfer-level, up from 36% in 2017, according to the California Acceleration Project. Students also did better: in fall 2020, 46% of first-time math students completed transfer-level math in one term, up from 24% in 2018, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. In most cases, students taking transfer-level courses have the option of concurrently enrolling in associate courses, which provide additional support for transfer-level courses.

Even colleges that still have remedial courses offer far fewer of these sections than before AB 705.

Still, lawmakers aren’t entirely happy with the progress, nor is the state chancellor’s office that oversees colleges. Of the colleges that said they would offer remedial courses, most could not justify doing so, said John Hetts, executive vice chancellor of the college system.

“While we have reviewed the evidence provided by colleges for having these courses, most of the evidence does not match what we would consider strong evidence,” he said, adding that the Chancellor’s office will release soon. additional guidelines for colleges. stating that they should not offer remedial classes.

Among the colleges still offering remedial classes is Los Medanos College, which is offering remedial sections in Elementary Algebra, Pre-Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra this fall. The Contra Costa County college’s intention was to limit those classes to students who weren’t looking to transfer, but that didn’t happen, said Ryan Pedersen, the dean of instruction.

Pedersen said he contacted students in those classes directly to make sure they had no plans to transfer. “It was obvious there were a lot of students who shouldn’t be there,” he said. Pedersen added that the college now plans to eliminate the “vast majority” of those courses before the spring.

San Diego Miramar College also hopes to get rid of two intermediate algebra remedial courses that remain in its course catalog. Anne Gloag, chair of the college’s math department, said her department’s desire was to have no remedial classes, but continued to offer them to accommodate teachers elsewhere in the college. Some chemistry courses, for example, have intermediate algebra as a prerequisite.

“We want to develop a college-level math classroom alongside these departments that will meet their needs, but it’s a long process,” Gloag said.

Not all colleges offering remedial courses are so eager to get rid of them. Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo County is offering four sections of Intermediate Algebra and Applied Algebra this fall. The classes are for students pursuing a STEM degree who have been out of college for several years, said Jason Curtis, the college’s vice president of education.

Students are not placed or referred to these courses, and the college’s online orientation includes a section with bold letters informing students that they can go directly to transfer-level courses. Yet each catch-up section is about 90% full this fall.

“It’s kind of hard to deny that there’s a demand for these classes,” Curtis said. He said the college is monitoring AB 1705 and trying to determine if it will make room for the college to offer remedial classes for students who want this option.

The statewide faculty association is also concerned that students will not be able to take remedial classes if AB 1705 is enacted. Wendy Brill-Wynkoop, president of the faculty association, said she was particularly concerned about older students returning to college who would be forced to take transfer-level classes for which they might not be eligible. be not ready.

“If they see a below-average grade and they haven’t necessarily done well academically before, that’s something that convinces them to walk away,” she said.

Irwin said the intent of his bill is not to get rid of remedial classes altogether, pointing to exceptions that exist for certain subgroups of students.

She also noted that the bill allows colleges to offer remedial classes if they can prove it will help specific populations of students. Such a population, for example, might be students pursuing a STEM degree who got low math grades in high school. If a college can prove that students who fit this description are more likely to graduate by taking a remedial math course, AB 1705 allows the college to offer that course. But Irwin acknowledged that so far colleges have not been able to justify remedial courses using this criterion.

Hetts, the executive vice chancellor of the community college system, said it’s “strongly expected” that if AB 1705 is signed, the system will eliminate nearly all remedial classes by fall 2023. Using the $64 million in this year’s budget, colleges plan to spend next year developing additional support for students taking transfer-level courses, such as more co-requisite courses and tutoring options, Hetts said.

“It’s time to finish this last leg of the race,” he said.

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