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State Senate passes bill to increase student success at community college 

Graduation capAB 1705 builds on 2017 law that requires the state’s community colleges to recognize high school coursework

– Last week, the California State Senate passed Assembly Bill 1705, legislation reforming remedial placement policies at the state’s community colleges. Authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (AD-44), the bill unanimously passed the Assembly in May. AB 1705 is supported by a diverse coalition of higher education equity, research, civil rights, social justice, faculty, and student leadership organizations.

AB 1705 builds on AB 705 (Irwin), a 2017 law that requires the state’s community colleges to recognize high school coursework instead of relying on “inaccurate and inequitable placement tests.” It also requires that students be placed into English and math classes where they have the greatest chance to make progress toward a college degree.

“Over a decade of research has established that starting in a remedial class actually makes students less likely to earn a degree,” said Dr. Christopher J. Nellum, executive director with The Education Trust–West. “Disproportionately, this impacted Black and Latinx students in the community college system. Since AB 705, colleges have made great progress towards addressing this. But inequities still persist – and that’s why we need AB 1705.”

A new report from the California Acceleration Project highlights the progress that California community colleges have made in implementing the changes required by AB 705. However, there are pockets of weak AB 705 implementation, and these colleges disproportionately serve Black and Hispanic community college students.

“Our research found that a Black student is four and half times more likely to attend a college that continues large scale remedial course offerings than a white student, and a Hispanic student is three times more likely,” said Katie Hern, co-founder of the California Acceleration Project and a faculty member at Skyline College. “These persistent inequities highlight the need for AB 1705 to become law.”

In tandem with AB 1705, Assemblymember Irwin also successfully advocated for $64 million to be included in the state budget to help community colleges implement changes to placement and remediation, such as expanding tutoring, developing corequisite supports, and providing professional development to help faculty effectively teach a broader population of students in transfer-level classes.

“Community colleges across California are making a groundbreaking shift to equitable placement policies,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “But this work is not over. Our state’s leaders must act for Black and Latinx student success and pass AB 1705 so that these students are no longer disproportionately placed into remedial education courses that completely derail their college goals.”

There is widespread support for AB 1705 among student leaders, including from the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, the UC Student Association, Students Making a Change, and more than 50 student leaders.

“When I started at City College of San Francisco, I was placed into remedial math classes,” said Angelica Campos, immediate past president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. “I struggled in these classes and this eroded my confidence. Even after AB 705, counselors continued to push me towards remedial classes, saying that ‘this was the path I was on.’ This delayed my progress towards my goals for years. Unfortunately, my experience is all too common at our community colleges. That’s why the Student Senate for California Community Colleges – which is the official voice of 1.8 million students – strongly supports this bill.”

Prior to AB 705, the vast majority of California community college students were denied access to transferable, college-level English and math courses. Eighty percent of incoming students started in remedial classes that cost time and money but did not earn credit toward a bachelor’s degree. AB 705 changed this by restricting colleges from requiring remedial courses.

After AB 705 became law, there was an increase in students completing their classes at the state’s community colleges. Student completion of transfer-level courses increased from 49-percent to 67-percent in English and from 26-percent to 50-percent in math statewide (2015-2019). This amounts to more than 41,000 additional students who completed transfer-level English and more than 30,000 additional students who completed transfer-level math than before the law (2015-2019).

“Enrolling students in remedial courses drives racial inequity,” said Jetaun Stevens, Senior Staff Attorney with Public Advocates. “AB 1705 provides additional clarity and guidance to help ensure that all California community college students benefit from the success of AB 705.”

AB 1705 addresses the following:

• Makes clear that colleges must enroll students in math and English classes where they have the greatest likelihood of completing degree and transfer requirements.
• Clarifies that colleges should not require students to repeat math and English classes they passed in high school.
• Provides greater protections to ensure that students are not required to take extra math and English courses that don’t count towards their degree requirements.
• Clarifies that it is the responsibility of colleges to ensure that students have supports that help them make progress toward their goals.


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