Remedial ed reform takes root

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

California makes big changes to remedial education, while other colleges and systems examine the effects of reform. 

In March, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors took a leap toward ending remedial education. The board unanimously adopted regulatory changes designed to keep students from inaccurately being placed into remedial courses that add time to completion and create other roadblocks to success.

The regulatory changes establish requirements for colleges to fully comply with a state law (Assembly Bill 705) that eliminates unreliable English and math placement tests, which have resulted in more than two-thirds of new students being classified as unprepared for college-level work. Those tests also have disproportionately placed low-income students and students of color in remedial courses.

“Research shows that students are far more prepared than assessment tests have acknowledged,” Board of Governors President Tom Epstein said in a release. “A student’s high school performance is a much stronger predictor of success in transfer-level courses than standardized placement tests.”

By fall 2019, students will not be placed in remedial classes unless they are highly unlikely to succeed in a transfer-level course.  Students also must be informed of their rights to access transfer-level coursework in English and mathematics.

The research is overwhelmingly clear in showing how low-income and minority students are significantly more likely to be wrongly placed in remedial classes, creating a chain of events that contribute to stubborn equity gaps,” said Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “These changes constitute a major step toward in meeting the commitments and goals set forth in the California Community Colleges Vision for Success.”

Remedial education reform has long been a topic of interest in the community college sector. In 2013, Florida adopted a law eliminating placement exams and allowing students the freedom to opt out of developmental education. The law also required expanded advising and student support services at colleges.

A February report by Florida State University’s Center for Postsecondary Success found increased student success and improved equity in the progress of students in the Florida College System for full-time students enrolled 2011-2016. In fact, Black and Hispanic students had greater gains in college-level credits attempted and earned following the reform, compared to white students.

And a recent CC Daily article looked at the results of Guam Community College’s decision to eliminate placement tests. According to the article, “The passage rates for both courses [finite mathematics and English composition] exceed the average passage rates during the six years before the experiment.”

Is your college or state system making changes to remedial education? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.