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Video: Remedial Education Reform in Community College

Mary Severance September 12, 2018
College Students in Class

Since the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 705, California community colleges have been transforming their approach to remedial—or developmental—education. AB 705 requires community colleges to maximize the probability of their students completing transfer-level courses in the one-year time frame. To comply with AB 705, colleges are revising the way they assess student readiness for college-level courses—giving priority to high school GPA rather than tests. They are also changing course offerings and classroom approaches. How will the reforms affect student outcomes, and how are colleges dealing with the challenges of implementation?

At an event in Sacramento last week, PPIC researcher Marisol Cuellar Mejia outlined the findings of a new report that sheds light on AB 705’s potential impact by looking at the efforts of “early implementers”—colleges that began experimenting with reforms before AB 705 was signed into law. A panel of experts then offered a range of perspectives on AB 705 implementation.

Roanna Bennie, interim president of Las Positas College—an early implementer—noted that only a small fraction of students who start at the beginning of a traditional, multi-course math remediation pathway end up taking transfer-level courses. “It’s the data that’s been really influencing our campus to take measures,” she added. But she also said that her college is wrestling with full-scale implementation. The challenges include covering the cost of additional courses, getting input from faculty and other staff across campus, and helping students adjust to the changes.

Laura Metune, vice chancellor for external relations in the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, emphasized the importance of professional development for both faculty and staff: “Everybody needs to understand what these changes are that we’re asking for, the research behind them, and what their individual roles are in helping them be successful.”

What comes next? As Katie Hern, an English instructor at Chabot College who co-founded the California Acceleration Project, put it: “The debate up until now has been whether to make these changes. That debate is over—the legislature settled that one. Now we have to make these changes and now we get to really study how to do it as effectively as possible.”

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