ANALYSIS: California bill is a disservice for community college students' goals

Accelerating unprepared students through classes will only result in a generation of untrained graduates brandishing meaningless diplomas.

California legislators are currently considering amending Assembly Bill 1705 (AB 1705) in order to prohibit community colleges from placing students in remedial courses if it postpones students’ graduation.

The bill states, “A community college district or community college shall not recommend or require students to enroll in pretransfer-level English or mathematics coursework unless . . . the enrollment in pretransfer-level coursework will improve the student’s probability of completing transfer-level coursework . . . within a one-year timeframe.” 

As a graduate of a community college, I understand the importance of remedial classes.

Community Colleges are designed for students from all walks of life, whether they are returning to school, trying to boost their GPA before continuing to a four-year university, or just wanting to save money. 

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Remedial courses are designed to prepare students for transfer-level courses and ensure their success in future academics. If a student in need of pre-transfer-level courses is allowed to enroll in transfer-level courses, they could be forced to drop out due to a lack of preparation. This would cause students to waste time and money. 

To get a teacher’s perspective on this issue, I spoke with Rosemarie Bezerra-Naderprofessor of Mathematics at Fresno City College, on the effects of AB 1705

The overall goal of Assembly Bill 1705 (AB1705) [is] to double down on the more restrictive aspects of Assembly Bill 705 (AB705) requiring colleges to eliminate both below transfer level (BLT) placements and enrollments by Fall 2023,” Nader told Campus Reform.

The amended bill has the capacity to deter students from fulfilling their academic goals by pushing students into classes above their level. Though it is certainly preferable to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible, it is more important for students to be adequately prepared for the next level of coursework.

“AB705 and AB 1705 set many students up for failure and that leads to a number of other socio-economic problems,” Nader said to Campus Reform. “It appears the quality of education is not the top priority or even a priority.”

The act proposes to amend Section 78213 of the Education Code while adding Sections 78212.5 and 78213.1 relating to community colleges. The next hearing for the bill is scheduled for August 1st.

“Instead of promoting equity, AB705 and AB1705 actually devalue diversity and the role community colleges have traditionally played for returning students,” Nader added.

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“AB 705 and 1705 virtually destroy second chance opportunities for students for whom life had been unfair, those who made poor choices in high school, those who were not proficient in the English language, and students wanting to ‘brush up’ on skills found on job-qualifying and promotion tests,” she said. 

John Almy, professor of English at Yuba Community College in Marysville California, expressed his frustration with legislation that disincentivizes remedial education in a 2017 article titled “The Fast Road to Nowhere.”

He stated that, “none of these programs or bills are going to accomplish what we need in order to turn this mess around. You do not accelerate people who do not know the basics. You slow down and teach them what they desperately need to know.”

Almy gets it right. 

Remedial courses also give students a second chance at fulfilling their academic goals. Taking remedial classes away would only take opportunities away from students.

Accelerating unprepared students through classes will only result in a generation of untrained graduates brandishing meaningless diplomas. 

According to Community College Review60% of community college students take at least one remedial course. 

This lack of preparation will not be solved by allowing students to skip classes that they desperately need. Instead, high school curricula should be improved so that students enter higher education prepared for the coursework, leaving remedial courses as a back-up option. 

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.