Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last week a bill that builds on a successful program at Cuyamaca College to move students directly into college-level math.
Assembly Bill 705, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks, requires community colleges to use high school performance as a factor in determining course placement for college-level math and English.
The intent is to keep students from wasting time and becoming bored in remedial courses when they could immediately succeed at the college level.
“For too long, inaccurate high stakes placement tests put students behind and stopped them from ever crossing the graduation stage. With the signing of AB 705 into law, more students will be placed directly into college-level courses and be able to reach their goals,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, which worked with Irwin on the bill.
This law was introduced because more than 75 percent of California’s community college students are being placed in remedial courses annually, despite evidence that many of them could be successful in college-level courses.
“Our current remedial education process conflicts with California’s goals for student success and wastes large amounts of human talent. AB 705 helps fix broken practices and puts into place policies guided by data and research,” said Irwin.
The legislation was influenced by the success of Cuyamaca College, where completion of transferable, college-level math has increased almost seven-fold among students previously classified “remedial.”
Cuyamaca is the first community college in California to undertake a full-scale transformation in math. In the fall of 2016, it began using students’ high school GPA and math coursework for placement, instead of relying on standardized tests.
It also replaced the previous one-size-fits-all remedial course sequence with math pathways where under-prepared students enroll in the transferable, college-level math course for their major, with tailored support. The vast majority of Cuyamaca College students can now complete their baccalaureate math requirements in one semester, instead of up to five semesters under the previous policies.
“The data are clear that traditional placement and remediation strategies are failing the vast majority of California community college students,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges system. “Through courageous conversations and leadership, Cuyamaca College transformed a challenging problem into meaningful action. The early results from this model provide a strong endorsement for implementing these and similar reforms across the system.”
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