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Progress Slows on California Remedial Education Reform

Some colleges are falling behind on making progress in remedial education reform just two years after California enacted legislation on the issue.

The latest report from the California Acceleration Project and Public Advocates shows that only three of California’s 116 community colleges have achieved complete implementation of the changes listed in Assembly Bill 705 for both English and math.

The bill, which took effect in 2018, requires community colleges to use high school grades for placement, restricts colleges from requiring students to take remedial courses and requires colleges to place students in the English and math courses that will maximize the likelihood of students completing transfer-level coursework in those areas within a year.

Research has shown that students are more likely to complete transfer-level English and math courses if they begin in transferable courses, rather than remedial courses that tend to not earn students credit.

In a review of fall 2020 courses, the California Acceleration Project found slight progress in some areas but regression in others. Statewide, 93 percent of English courses and 75 percent of math courses were transferable, as opposed to remedial, which is a modest improvement over last year, when 87 percent of English and 71 percent of math courses were transferable. However, 28 colleges increased the number of remedial courses they offered in math, and 19 colleges did the same with English.

More colleges also replaced remedial course models with corequisite models, which let students enroll in transfer-level classes that offer additional support.

The report also found that Black and Latinx students disproportionately attend the colleges with the largest remedial math offerings. More than 80 percent of the colleges serving more than 2,000 Black students continue to offer more remedial sections than corequisite sections.

In the fall of 2019, nearly 30 percent of Black students and 24 percent of Latinx students were enrolled in remedial courses, compared to 20 percent of white students.

Reform in math offerings varies widely by location. No colleges in the south central coast have strong math reform implementations, according to the report, and those in the Inland Empire have the most cases of strong implementation.

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