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California bill aims to limit time at junior colleges

Posted: 8:13 AM, Sep 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-14 15:13:07Z

Fitzgerald graves enrolled at Bakersfield College in 2010. Graves was placed in a remedial math class, which he failed. He was then placed in a different remedial class where he also struggled. Eventually, he was put in an entry-level math statistics class. He passed with an "A." Now he's graduating after nearly 8 years -- but thanks to AB 705 -- other students might be able to avoid the cycle that graves found himself in.

A recent  study showed that community college students who enroll in remedial classes are less likely to graduate or transfer to a four year university. But now -- thanks to a new state bill -- that could change for students in community college -- including right here at Bakersfield college.

It would have saved me three years. I would literally probably have a Masters because it wasn’t my level of comprehension. you don’t feel like you’re a college student when you’re put in remedial.”

Fitzgerald Graves is just one of hundreds of thousands of community college students in the state who are in this boat. Taking remedial classes means that it will take a student longer to graduate or transfer to a four year university because remedial classes are not transferable and don’t count towards your degree.

"You feel like you're kind of in college but you're not because you know it doesn't transfer."

AB 705 is a law that stops community colleges from enrolling students in remedial classes unless the student is highly unlikely to succeed in a college entry-level classes. The law states that California community colleges place too many students in remedial classes when some of those students could succeed in entry level courses. Students like Graves who said that the problem with remedial classes in how they are taught.

"I think it has more to do with the structure of the professor and how they deliver the information." Graves said. "Attending the statistics class, it was more engaging and I was able to retain the information then when it came to testing, it just seemed like I was having a conversation about that information.”

The law also pushes community colleges to rely less on tests and more on high school performance for placement. Research done by the Community College Research Center and other groups have concluded that placement tests are not good indicators of student success.

"We’re saying, you know, you have demonstrated through your high school record that you are capable of doing this level of work. We’re going to put you into this level of work and we’re going to help you succeed.” said Liz Rozell, interim Vice President of Instruction at Bakersfield College.

Rozell said that Bakersfield College was already heading in the direction of this new law by placing students based on both placement tests and high school performance.

"The state and... has spoken loud and clear.."

But that doesn't mean AB 705 didn't raise some concerns from faculty.

"What all community college professors are going to have to grapple with is how are they going to approach these classes that they've been teaching where they have students that are less prepared than they've had in the past," said Andrea Thorson, Dean of Instruction of English and former professor at Bakersfield College.

Thorson said that faculty created an AB 705 taskforce to figure out how to best adapt to this new law.

"One of the things that we came up with in having these tough conversations was adding a support to the class. So, we have your typical English B1A class , for instance, which is the transfer level course but we also have the support class. Right after that [English B1A] class, these students go into this course and it helps them become successful in this class.”

Thorson also added that students will still have the option to take a remedial class as the law indicates.

"Some people are afraid that there’s gonna be these students that when they get into the classes, it’s too much even with the support that we give them ... Even with that they fail. Well, the good thing is the law still allow us to let students self-place," She said. "So if the student, for instance, places into transfer-level class but they fail it ... They can go to their counselor and say, 'I would like to be in a class one level below this." 

"[This] should’ve been done several years ago. But nonetheless, for those students that are coming in, they’re going to have a great opportunity." Graves said. "They’ll be able to move quicker through the system and then maybe take part in the California promise, transfer to a four year institution and getting a bachelors and not spending seven years at a community college.”

All California community colleges must be in compliance with AB 705 no later than fall of 2019.