The Public Policy Institute of California recognized CSM’s success with multiple measures in its August 2018 report, Remedial Education Reforms at California’s Community Colleges. The report highlighted CSM’s significant gains in placing hundreds of additional students directly into transfer-level English courses.
Historically, colleges and universities have decided what English classes students should take using one measure: the standardized placement test. A student who was having a bad day, or simply didn’t relate to the context of a question, could be placed in a remedial class that was not transferable to UCs and CSUs. For students, this resulted in low success rates, higher cost, and more time to completion.
A new state law, AB 705, requires community colleges to allow students to complete a transfer-level English course within their first year. The law also requires colleges to use “multiple measures”—such as high school grades—to place students into English and math courses.
As one of 15 early adopters among the California community colleges, CSM implemented multiple measures in 2016, prior to AB 705. Under the guidance of two English professors, Jon Kitamura and Daniel Keller, CSM began using high school GPA and student self-placement to determine where students should be placed.
Early results have been impressive. In 2016, 77% of CSM students were placed directly into transfer-level English courses compared to the statewide average of 44%. CSM students also completed transfer-level classes at a rate of 68%, up slightly from previous years. Since then, rates of direct placement of students into transfer-level English continue to increase while success rates remain steady.
English faculty have invested significant time in teaching circles and other forms of professional development to ensure this success. They also spend extensive hours in the Writing Center and Office Hours coaching students one-on-one in reading, writing, and editing skills. High expectations in the transfer English classes are met with high levels of support for the students who are struggling.
There is still more work to be done. Under AB 705, colleges may offer remedial courses one level below transfer for students who opt to take them — but only if they can prove their effectiveness. In addition, CSM’s English faculty are wrestling with how to serve the 1% of students in English that are currently self-placing into two levels below transfer. With AB705, this course will no longer be an option starting in Fall 2019.
CSM’s English faculty are meeting to discuss plans this week and will attend an AB705 Implementation Workshop hosted by the CA Acceleration Project later this month to help them determine how to best support students under AB705, perhaps with additional tutoring for those who have difficulty tackling rigorous transfer-level coursework. “It would be inequitable to just say sorry kids, welcome to English 105, sink or swim,” said Kitamura.