Lawmakers aim to reduce college remediation

Lawmakers aim to reduce college remediation

(Calif.) Students will no longer be misplaced in remedial college courses or left to languish for years without support in non-credit bearing classes under a bill now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

AB 705, authored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, community colleges will be required to use multiple measures, such as a student’s high school GPA and individual course grades in addition to placement tests, when determining which courses students should be placed in.

The bill also specifically requires that community colleges “maximize the probability” that students are able to complete English and mathematics courses used for transfer or toward a degree within one year by providing additional support services. Colleges would have three years to ensure the same for those placed in English-as-a-second language coursework.

“Thousands of students every semester are wrongly placed into remedial courses that unnecessarily delay their timelines toward graduation,” Irwin said in a statement. “Placement tests as the sole indicator for student placement put California’s students at a disadvantage. By allowing students to be placed based on the best of multiple measures, including high school coursework, we find that they rise to the challenge and transfer or start their careers more quickly.”

Earlier this year, officials from the state’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office told a legislative panel that as many as one-third of the students sent into remediation programs don’t need the additional support, and that about 75 percent of students who do need remediation are often placed at a level below where they could have been successful.

A recent Public Policy Institute of California study found that 80 percent of students entering Community College enroll in at least one remedial-level English or math course.

Studies regularly show that students who are required to take remedial courses are often discouraged by the delay in their academic progress and less likely to graduate than their peers. According to the LAO, there is a 30 percentage point difference in graduation rates among transfer or degree-seeking community college students in California depending on whether or not they’re deemed college ready upon enrollment. Analysts also noted that about 30 percent of would-be community college students who are placed in remediation don’t go on to even enroll.

Under AB 705, a student’s individual course grades and their overall GPA could be factored into placement decisions in addition to a standard placement exam. Low performance on one measure–such as the placement exam–may be offset by high performance on another measure, allowing the student to bypass remedial classes.

The bill also prohibits colleges from requiring students to enroll in remedial coursework unless multiple measures used that include high school academics show that those students are highly unlikely to succeed in transfer-level coursework in English and mathematics.

Colleges should also explore options to provide students with supplemental supports while allowing them to enroll in credit-bearing courses.

Leaders at the community college-level noted that while many campuses have embraced an evidence-based multiple measures approach to student placement, progress across the California Community Colleges has been slow.

“The data is clear, the use of standardized assessment tests as the primary factor in placing students in math and English doesn’t work,” Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community Colleges Chancellor, said in a statement. “AB 705 calls on the California Community Colleges to enact the statewide reforms that will provide every student a strong start on their path to a certificate or degree.”