Q: Do students who are entering community college still need to take assessment tests in math and English to determine if they need to take remedial classes?
A: Under a new law, Assembly Bill 705 (Irwin), community colleges in California are required to use students’ high school grades as the primary means of placement rather than assessment tests, which are notoriously unreliable predictors. The law also restricts colleges from denying students access to transferable, college-level courses and gives students the right to begin in courses where they have the best chance of completing the English and math requirements for a bachelor’s degree.
A recent report from the Campaign for College Opportunity, however, found mixed results in how this law has been implemented. They looked at 47 community colleges in the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and greater Los Angeles. On the positive side, colleges have approximately doubled the proportion of transfer-level classes they offer. There has also been dramatic growth in the number of colleges offering corequisite remediation—that is, curricular models in which students receive additional support while enrolled in transferable, college-level classes. Most colleges are allowing all students to enroll directly in transferable, college-level courses, in compliance with the law, however, there are some exceptions.
At many colleges, however, remedial courses continue to constitute a large proportion of course offerings, especially in math, and students are not being fully informed both about the pros and cons of enrolling in remedial courses and their rights as defined in AB 705. Although expressly prohibited by new Title 5 regulations, some colleges still embed “readiness tests” deep within their guided placement tools.
It is crucial that, until the bill is fully implemented, professionals educate themselves and students about how to advocate to ensure that students are enrolling in courses that maximize their likelihood of success.