Early adoption of AB 705, which eliminates remedial classes at California community colleges, is already showing promising results, as support for the new law outside of the California Community Colleges continues to grow.
A report released in September by the RP Group, a nonpartisan team that conducts research on behalf of the California Community Colleges, found direct enrollment in transfer-level English and math courses increased. Additionally, the report found a significant increase in the number of African American and Latinx students enrolling in and passing the classes.
The legislation, which took effect Jan. 1, 2018, requires that a community college district or college maximize the probability that a student will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in English and math within a year and use, in the placement of students into English and math courses, one or more of the following: high school coursework, high school grades, and high school grade point average.
All community colleges are required to be in compliance with AB 705 by this fall but several implemented reforms ahead of the fall deadline. Two of those colleges, Santa Monica College and Citrus College, are sharing their early success in a trio of video testimonials.
Videos were created by Jobs for the Future in collaboration with the California Success Center, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges. The campaign is aligned with Strong Start to Finish, a national organization committed to increasing college completion by expanding the number of students passing math and English gateway courses in their first year.
“There’s a lot of support for this from the administration on down to the faculty, staff (and) students,” said Citrus College English instructor Suzanne Martinez. “Everybody is supportive of it, and we see the change. I believe AB 705 closes the equity and achievement gaps because in fall of 2018, when we completely implemented AB 705, 100 percent of our students went into English 101.”
Success rates jumped from 54% of students completing English 101 to 65%.
“As we continue to have more collaborative classrooms, more collaborative workspaces, the faculty and administration and staff working together to support the students, I only see future success in the students.”
Santa Monica College student Joshua Elizondo agreed. “I feel the college as a whole has just moved forward,” said Elizondo in a video highlighting reforms at the Los Angeles-area college. “I mean the students from a perspective of who I’ve talked to, it’s a welcome change.”
Shortcomings in developmental education programs is a much-studied topic, and PBS featured Citrus College in a May 14 broadcast focused on California’s remedial education reforms.
“Those remedial courses, often were a trap,” Christopher Edley, president of the Berkeley-based Opportunity Institute, said in an interview on the PBS segment. “People would take them once, twice, three times, still not succeeding, they would use up their financial aid eligibility, they’d get discouraged, they’d end up dropping out and never complete college.”
The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office says AB 705 is critical in meeting the equity goals set forth in the Vision for Success. One such goal, for example, asserts the need to eliminate achievement gaps within the next decade, and research regarding assessment and placement show that low-income students and students of color are more likely to be placed into remedial courses than other students.
For those skeptical of placing students they believe may not be ready for a transfer-level math course, Elizondo has a suggestion:
“If someone is fearful that it might cause a student not to really learn because they’re not ready for that math, I would ask them to think outside the box and really look at how they could support a student in achieving that rather than telling them they can’t.”