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San Diego Miramar College is one of dozens of California's community colleges that still offer remedial classes, though it has reduced its offerings of those classes dramatically and faculty hope to soon eliminate them.

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

Awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature is a bill that would mostly ban remedial math and English classes, which can’t transfer with credit to four-year universities. If he signs the bill, it will affect more than 40 colleges that continue to offer those classes five years after the state told them to allow students to bypass the courses.

Assembly Bill 1705 soared through the state’s Legislature, winning the approval of lawmakers who are frustrated that some students are still being funneled into remedial classes. Lawmakers contend that many of the colleges offering remedial courses are violating the spirit of a 2017 law, Assembly Bill 705, which said colleges can’t place students in remedial classes unless they are highly unlikely to succeed in transfer-level coursework.

The new law builds off the initial one by creating stricter rules detailing the limited scenarios when colleges are allowed to enroll students in remedial classes. Certain groups of students would be exempt from needing to go directly to transfer-level classes, such as some disabled students, students who didn’t graduate from high school and students in some career technical education programs. A college could also enroll a student in a remedial course if the college 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. 

This past spring, each community college was required to submit a report to the chancellor’s office explaining whether they planned to offer remedial classes in fall 2022. More than one-third of the system’s 115 brick-and-mortar colleges — 46 of them — reported that they would, according to data obtained by EdSource through a Public Records Act request. Those colleges are spread across the state, from College of the Siskiyous near the Oregon border to the San Diego Community College District.

“There are a lot of schools that have been lagging in 705 implementation,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, the author of both AB 705 and the new legislation. “So we really just wanted to tighten up 705 to make sure every student is encouraged to go into transfer-level classes.”

The new bill has faced some opposition, most notably from the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, a statewide advocacy group. The faculty group says there are some students who benefit from those classes but won’t be able to take them if the law is adopted.

Irwin is confident that Newsom will sign the bill. The bill didn’t receive a single opposition vote in the Legislature, and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis has endorsed it. This year’s budget agreement also included $64 million for colleges to help students complete transfer-level math and English courses. Newsom’s Department of Finance took a neutral position on the bill.

Irwin and other critics of remedial education point to research showing that pre-transfer coursework is often a barrier for students. Prior to AB 705, just 16% of students who took remedial courses earned a certificate or associate degree within six years, and only 24% transferred to a four-year university, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Research has also shown that Black and Latino students enroll at disproportionately high rates in those classes.

Remedial classes across the state have already dwindled dramatically since the original law was adopted. This fall, 93% of introductory math courses across the state are transfer-level, up from 36% in 2017, according to the California Acceleration Project. Students have also been more successful: In fall 2020, 46% of first-time math students completed transfer-level math within one term, up from 24% in 2018, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. In most cases, students taking transfer-level classes have the opportunity to simultaneously enroll in co-requisite courses, which offer extra help with the transfer-level coursework. 

Even the colleges that still have remedial courses are offering far fewer of those sections than they did before AB 705.

Still, lawmakers aren’t completely satisfied with that progress, and neither is the statewide chancellor’s office that oversees the colleges. Among the colleges that reported they would offer remedial classes, most of them weren’t able to justify doing so, said John Hetts, an executive vice chancellor for the college system.

“As we’ve reviewed the evidence that colleges provided for having those classes, most of the evidence does not rise to what we would consider to be strong evidence,” he said, adding that the chancellor’s office will soon publish additional guidance for the colleges clarifying that they shouldn’t be offering remedial courses.

Among the colleges still offering remedial classes is Los Medanos College, which this fall has remedial sections of elementary algebra, prealgebra and intermediate algebra. The Contra Costa County college’s intention was to limit those classes to students not seeking to transfer, but that hasn’t happened, said Ryan Pedersen, the dean of instruction.

Pedersen said he has reached out directly to students in those classes to make sure they weren’t intending to transfer. “It was obvious there are lots of students that shouldn’t be in there,” he said. Pedersen added that the college now plans to eliminate the “vast majority” of those classes before the spring.

San Diego Miramar College is also hoping to get rid of two remedial courses of intermediate algebra that remain in its course catalog. Anne Gloag, chair of the college’s math department, said her department’s desire is to have zero remedial courses but continues to offer them to satisfy faculty elsewhere at the college. Some chemistry courses, for example, have intermediate algebra as a prerequisite. 

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

Not every college offering remedial classes is as eager to get rid of them. Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo County this fall is offering four sections of intermediate algebra and applied algebra. The courses are meant for students pursuing a STEM degree who have been out of college for several years, said Jason Curtis, the college’s vice president of instruction.

Students aren’t placed or referred to those classes, and the college’s online orientation includes a section with bold lettering informing students they can go straight to transfer-level classes. Still, each remedial section is about 90% full this fall. 

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

The statewide faculty association is also concerned about students not having the option to take remedial classes if AB 1705 is enacted. Wendy Brill-Wynkoop, president of the faculty association, said she’s particularly concerned for older students who return to college and would be forced into transfer-level coursework that they may not be ready for.

“If they see a subpar 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 her bill is not to completely get rid of remedial classes, pointing to the exceptions that exist for certain subgroups of students.

She also noted that the bill allows for colleges to offer remedial courses if they can prove it will help specific populations of students. Such a population, for example, could be students pursuing a STEM degree who earned poor math grades in high school. If a college can prove that students fitting that description are more likely to earn a degree by taking a remedial math class, AB 1705 allows the college to offer that class. But Irwin acknowledged that so far, colleges haven’t been able to justify remedial classes using that criterion. 

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

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

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  1. bt 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This should be a matter of personal choice for the students. I agree with the spirit of the law that colleges should not pressure students into remedial classes or make them a condition of enrollment or graduation. But to ban them outright is misguided and could actually make schooling more expensive than necessary if students have to pay for outside tutoring or repeat their transfer-level courses because they failed the first time. Colleges will have … Read More

    This should be a matter of personal choice for the students. I agree with the spirit of the law that colleges should not pressure students into remedial classes or make them a condition of enrollment or graduation. But to ban them outright is misguided and could actually make schooling more expensive than necessary if students have to pay for outside tutoring or repeat their transfer-level courses because they failed the first time. Colleges will have to work around this by offering expanded fee-based tutoring because the fact of the matter is many students are remedial. Banning the remedial classes doesn’t magically make those students non-remedial.

  2. Kyle Chang 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Remedial education is a waste of time, money, energy, and resources in College!

  3. Tim Melvin 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I am the Chair of the Mathematics Dept at Santa Rosa Junior College, and our entire department completely opposes AB1705. We think it's unethical for the State to should shut off educational opportunities for our students most in need, which is what AB1705 will do. Our department hasn't required pretransfer level math classes in 3 years, but students sign up for them voluntarily if they know they are not ready for transfer level … Read More

    I am the Chair of the Mathematics Dept at Santa Rosa Junior College, and our entire department completely opposes AB1705. We think it’s unethical for the State to should shut off educational opportunities for our students most in need, which is what AB1705 will do. Our department hasn’t required pretransfer level math classes in 3 years, but students sign up for them voluntarily if they know they are not ready for transfer level math like statistics or precalculus.

    This reporter, Michael Burke, interviewed me a couple of months ago about our department’s stance on the remedial math class ban. I am thankful he spent 30 minutes to talk to me, but I wish he would do more reporting and writing on all sides of this important, nuanced issue. The forced long remedial path pre-AB705 was inequitable, but completely banning all remedial math classes is also inequitable. AB1705 removes the ‘community’ from California Community Colleges.

  4. Sarah Roberts 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I graduated from the CSU system in 2016 after on and off schooling for many years. The problem with the remedial classes is the colleges utilize them to guarantee longer tuition costs. Every time I transferred, colleges they would force me to sign up for at least one remedial class. They would say every new student needs to take at least one remedial class. This prolonged my college experience by years because I couldn't just … Read More

    I graduated from the CSU system in 2016 after on and off schooling for many years. The problem with the remedial classes is the colleges utilize them to guarantee longer tuition costs. Every time I transferred, colleges they would force me to sign up for at least one remedial class. They would say every new student needs to take at least one remedial class. This prolonged my college experience by years because I couldn’t just take classes that could transfer to a university.

    Over time I moved and changed community colleges, and universities. Each time I moved the new school would require I take remedial classes again because at that time remedial classes couldn’t be transferred from college to college. The people who the remedial class system hurts the most are people who transfer between community colleges or to universities. Which means everyone.

    I believe that the remedial system was set up to help, but over time has become a way to stagnant students success to guarantee government and state payments of tuition to the colleges. I think removing the remedial system will help minority students finish college faster and with less debt. The counselors will need to be replaced or retrained though, because it is common practice for them to put someone in multiple remedial classes because they are new students. Many of these students would transfer faster and with more confidence if the school did not have a blanket requirement for remedial classes.

    My husband who was a nuclear mechanic in the Navy and excels in mathematics and English, but was forced to take a remedial classes when he started community college after retiring from the Navy. This prolonged his transfer to UC for an extra year. It is good the state is getting rid of the remedial programs. I wish they would completely do away with the remedial system. People should be put into classes that can be transferred and applied to their Bachelor’s or Associate degree. If someone requests to be in classes that are considered remedial, then that is up to them. No more blanket entry level tests that put everyone in remedial classes.

  5. Jeffrey H. 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    We have a false either/or going on here: Either we require remedial courses that seemingly have no major effect, or we skip these courses entirely and go straight to college level transfer courses. Neither of these is a good option. What we need are personalized, semi-self-study, remedial level courses. In such courses, instead of putting a student into a semester long remedial math, grammar, or reading course, we put them into a self-paced, … Read More

    We have a false either/or going on here: Either we require remedial courses that seemingly have no major effect, or we skip these courses entirely and go straight to college level transfer courses. Neither of these is a good option.

    What we need are personalized, semi-self-study, remedial level courses. In such courses, instead of putting a student into a semester long remedial math, grammar, or reading course, we put them into a self-paced, see-the-teacher-once-a-week-for-10-minutes, test-your-way-out-of course. It’s the “Oh God I’m driving to high school courses for the next 2 years” realization that kills college for many young people who were the victims of poor K-12 educations. Eliminating remedial instruction altogether just kicks the problem down the road, with the ultimate result being that a Cal State or UCal degree has less value for its holders.

    Using traditional, lecture-based, classroom courses for remedial subject matter is not our only option. But, of course, if that’s what a student wants, we have to give them that. It’s their education.

  6. Paul Constantino 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Another nail in the coffin of the formerly great California education system. Local control , parents with ludicrous expectations of the education system capped by politicians who will do anything for one more vote has led CA K through 12 system to be in the bottom 10 states. Now we are going to continue failing these kids by forcing them into courses they are sure to fail. Sad. Time to cut our loses and eliminate … Read More

    Another nail in the coffin of the formerly great California education system. Local control , parents with ludicrous expectations of the education system capped by politicians who will do anything for one more vote has led CA K through 12 system to be in the bottom 10 states. Now we are going to continue failing these kids by forcing them into courses they are sure to fail. Sad. Time to cut our loses and eliminate public education. Set high min standards, state funding of those in need, and technical ed as an alternative to standard college.

  7. William Demarest 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The proponents of AB1705 consistently cite their data that shows an increase in the number of students that pass transfer level math in the first year. However, where is the data on the students who will be negatively impacted by outlawing all pre-transfer level math and English courses at community colleges? Conveniently, proponents of the bill have not collected any data on negative impacts. As a community college math instructor, I know the students who … Read More

    The proponents of AB1705 consistently cite their data that shows an increase in the number of students that pass transfer level math in the first year. However, where is the data on the students who will be negatively impacted by outlawing all pre-transfer level math and English courses at community colleges? Conveniently, proponents of the bill have not collected any data on negative impacts. As a community college math instructor, I know the students who will be shut out of our educational system personally, and that is why this is such a sad day for me.

  8. Robert L Crawford 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Watch out when liberals say that they are going to help blacks and Latinos. That means they they are about to disenfranchise us, as AB 1705&705 aim to do. They save money, not minds of brown folks.

  9. William Moore 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Sounds like a major mistake to pass such a law. Sounds like something coming from DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education. I guess this educational void will be filled by private highs schools?!

  10. Christine O'Neill 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    This bill is insane!. The sole purpose is to chop money from the budget. If this bill is signed by Newsom , many ,many students are underserved. Whose grand idea was this?

  11. John 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I believe we should be taking K-14, not K-12; at least that is the way the state of California provides funding. In cases of English and math, K-12 is having a terrible time keeping students proficient and preparing for higher education. Moreover, students are a mixture of different needs where they need additional instruction and individual attention. Not to mention disabled, EL, and Special Ed. If some k-12 districts are not able to … Read More

    I believe we should be taking K-14, not K-12; at least that is the way the state of California provides funding. In cases of English and math, K-12 is having a terrible time keeping students proficient and preparing for higher education. Moreover, students are a mixture of different needs where they need additional instruction and individual attention. Not to mention disabled, EL, and Special Ed.

    If some k-12 districts are not able to provide and keep students on a task like providing measuring points, ie., counseling that keeps students on target to learn and graduate, community colleges must extend their academic hand and assist students. Do your jobs…

  12. Sheila Jordan 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Having worked with justice involving students both at Community Day Schools and Juvenile Hall, many of them with a history of school failure, community college represents a hope for improvement. Many of these youth and young adults turn to CCs when they make a turn and decide to improve their skills. There should be an open door to serve those students. If not in community colleges, then where?

  13. Dawn G 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    It would be a tremendous loss for many students who were passed through without learning the basics in primary and secondary grades. Students have many reasons for not being able to read and write, or do math. Much of it is home schooling that slips through the cracks, and much of it is students who are kept from school through no fault of their own. Many of these students can only achieve educational success if … Read More

    It would be a tremendous loss for many students who were passed through without learning the basics in primary and secondary grades. Students have many reasons for not being able to read and write, or do math. Much of it is home schooling that slips through the cracks, and much of it is students who are kept from school through no fault of their own. Many of these students can only achieve educational success if they are provided that opportunity in Community College. Otherwise, they will not be able to keep up with the rigorous schedule of a 4 year institution, or advanced degree programs.

    It is more than inconvenient, it is a life changer. I am one of those students. I didn’t start college until I was 50 due to life circumstances and parents who never cared if I went to college or not. I finally found faith in myself and started at my local community college. Had it not been for the remedial math, I would not have graduated and moved on to get my bachelor’s or my masters. I would have remained pigeon-holed by the assumption that my only purpose in life was to procreate. Now, I’m an intervention specialist and help others learn to read and write. We must keep these classes available in Community Colleges to continue to ensure that all our residents have an equal opportunity to obtain the best educations possible. It works and it has immeasurable value!

  14. Leigh Anne Shaw 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    As per usual, there is absolutely no mention of English language learners, who are conveniently ignored in the process of sending them directly into transfer-level English. If you don't identify an English language learner upon entry to college, you have no data to show whether their success, or lack thereof, had anything to do with language proficiency. Look at how ESL has been decimated by AB 705, and ask whether the need for English language … Read More

    As per usual, there is absolutely no mention of English language learners, who are conveniently ignored in the process of sending them directly into transfer-level English. If you don’t identify an English language learner upon entry to college, you have no data to show whether their success, or lack thereof, had anything to do with language proficiency.

    Look at how ESL has been decimated by AB 705, and ask whether the need for English language instruction has gone away, or if the state has just decided that it no longer wishes to subsidize it. Under AB 1705, college counselors will be forbidden to even discuss pre-transfer coursework – ESL is all pre-transfer. By not even presenting the option, you deny language learners opportunities to contend academically.

  15. SD Parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The entire premise behind this bill is a false belief that students in California graduate having met the K-12 standards in English and Math. I urge everyone who thinks this is true to look at the CAASPP scores for 11th grade students and recognize that 43% didn't meet standards in ELA and 68% didn't meet standards in Math – and that was in 2019, before the pandemic disrupted education. Not offering a remedial option … Read More

    The entire premise behind this bill is a false belief that students in California graduate having met the K-12 standards in English and Math. I urge everyone who thinks this is true to look at the CAASPP scores for 11th grade students and recognize that 43% didn’t meet standards in ELA and 68% didn’t meet standards in Math – and that was in 2019, before the pandemic disrupted education.

    Not offering a remedial option will merely discourage the most vulnerable students, who weren’t prepared in K-12, will have no realistic way to make up that learning loss, and are likely to give up any goals of continuing their education.

    Replies

    • SD Parent 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Diving more deeply into the PPIC report, one discovers that the passage rate for students in their first transfer-credit math course was 50% for 2019. The authors of the report press strongly for the elimination of remediation courses but don't address the reality of a 50% failure rate and how that would likely impact a student's ability to transfer or whether these students continue in college or drop out. (The passage rate was 57% for … Read More

      Diving more deeply into the PPIC report, one discovers that the passage rate for students in their first transfer-credit math course was 50% for 2019. The authors of the report press strongly for the elimination of remediation courses but don’t address the reality of a 50% failure rate and how that would likely impact a student’s ability to transfer or whether these students continue in college or drop out.

      (The passage rate was 57% for fall 2020, but one cannot discount how much the pandemic impacted that cohort. Pandemic changes included the switch to online instruction, relaxed grading policies, and most-importantly, changes in population of students with increased enrollment of students who deferred online 4-year college courses and instead enrolled in community college courses and reductions in enrollment of low-income students who were forced to enter the workforce to help their families. This means it would be unrealistic to attribute the data for the 2020 cohort solely to policy changes.)

  16. Lisa L Disbrow 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I strongly agree with the previous comments. The truth is that California is graduating enormous numbers of students who absolutely must have further instruction in order to function in transfer classes. We are harming students who need additional support by forcing faculties to eliminate these classes. What is the motivation behind another legislative attack on serving the needs of the students at any level?

  17. terry Givens 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I teach at a California Community College and I encounter students that can’t read and are enrolled in remedial classes to help improve their reading skills. What will happen to these students if they can’t read? My classes are overloaded with students that need to be accommodated. I think the state is overlooking the reality of the population of students that attend or want to attend community college in California.

  18. Pam Shilling 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Just called the Governor's office and pleaded that this bill, AB1705, be vetoed. It would be a complete disaster to eliminate remedial reading classes from community colleges. That is the only viable resource for students that wish to improve their reading skills to continue with their education goals in community college or possibly transfer to a university or state college. Adult literacy programs just can't cover the turnover that this would create. As a … Read More

    Just called the Governor’s office and pleaded that this bill, AB1705, be vetoed. It would be a complete disaster to eliminate remedial reading classes from community colleges. That is the only viable resource for students that wish to improve their reading skills to continue with their education goals in community college or possibly transfer to a university or state college.

    Adult literacy programs just can’t cover the turnover that this would create. As a retired Reading Specialist and manager for 25 years of our adult literacy program, I wanted my voice to be heard. The status of the teaching of reading in this state is currently a huge disaster.

  19. Jan Johnston-TYler 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    This is so wrong-headed. While I agree too many kids were funneled into remedial classes, this goes too far. In the last year I have worked with a dozen or more high school graduates who are far lower than 10th grade equivalency. These kids were not given the basic education they need to survive English 1A or Math 10 (or whatever), and by cutting off remediation classes, they now have no hope for college. These … Read More

    This is so wrong-headed. While I agree too many kids were funneled into remedial classes, this goes too far.

    In the last year I have worked with a dozen or more high school graduates who are far lower than 10th grade equivalency. These kids were not given the basic education they need to survive English 1A or Math 10 (or whatever), and by cutting off remediation classes, they now have no hope for college. These are typically kids with unremediated dyslexia and dyscalculia that Bay Area (and beyond) school districts did not appropriately accommodate.

    While I understand the heart of the issue, this does not take into consideration the high school graduates who are not adequately prepared for college in one or more area, yet are perfectly capable in others — and should be in college.

    Secondary schools have kicked the can down the road to community colleges – now, families can’t rely on that any longer.

    Bad, bad, bad…

    Replies

    • Terry Givens 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Totally agree.