Cal State to re­vamp fresh­man course plan

Sys­tem will end non­credit re­me­dial classes in bid to up grad­u­a­tion rates.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Rosanna Xia

Cal State plans to drop place­ment ex­ams in math and English as well as the non­credit re­me­dial cour­ses that more than 25,000 fresh­men have been required to take each fall — a rad­i­cal move away from the way pub­lic univer­si­ties tra­di­tion­ally sup­port stu­dents who come to col­lege less pre­pared than their peers.

In an ex­ec­u­tive order is­sued late Wed­nes­day, Chan­cel­lor Ti­mothy P. White di­rected the na­tion’s largest pub­lic univer­sity sys­tem to re­vamp its ap­proach to re­me­dial ed­u­ca­tion and as­sess new fresh­men for col­lege readi­ness and course place­ment by us­ing high school grades, ACT and SAT scores, pre­vi­ous class­room per­for­mance and other mea­sures that ad­min­is­tra­tors say pro­vide a more ac­cu­rate and com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of stu­dents’ knowl­edge.

Cal State will no longer make those stu­dents who may need ex­tra help take the stan­dard­ized en­try-level math­e­mat­ics (ELM) exam and the English place­ment test (EPT).

The new pro­to­col, which will go into ef­fect in fall 2018, “fa­cil­i­tates eq­ui­table op­por­tu­nity for first-year stu­dents to suc­ceed through ex­ist­ing and re­designed ed­u­ca­tion mod­els,” White wrote in a me­moran­dum to the sys­tem’s 23 cam­pus pres­i­dents, who will be re­spon­si­ble for work­ing with fac­ulty to im­ple­ment the changes. The hope is that th­ese ef­forts will also help stu­dents ob­tain their de­grees sooner — one of the pub­lic univer­sity sys­tem’s pri­or­i­ties. Cal State has com­mit­ted to dou­bling its four-year grad­u­a­tion rate, from 19% to 40%, by 2025.

The ex­ec­u­tive order comes at a time when ed­u­ca­tors and pol­i­cy­mak­ers across the na­tion are ques­tion­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of tra­di­tional re­me­dial ed­u­ca­tion and place­ment ex­ams. At Cal State, about 40% of fresh­men each year are con­sid­ered not ready for col­legelevel work and required to take re­me­dial classes that do not count to­ward their de­grees.

Cur­rently, stu­dents who en­ter Cal State with­out demon­strat­ing col­lege readi­ness in math and/or English are required to take

up to three tra­di­tional re­me­dial classes be­fore they are al­lowed to en­roll in cour­ses that count to­ward their de­grees. (If stu­dents do not pass th­ese re­me­dial cour­ses dur­ing the first year, they are re­moved from univer­sity rolls.)

The prob­lem is that th­ese non­credit re­me­dial cour­ses cost the stu­dents more money and time, keep many in limbo and of­ten frus­trate them to the point that some even­tu­ally drop out, ad­min­is­tra­tors said. In a re­cent study of sim­i­lar col­lege-prep work at com­mu­nity col­leges, the Pub­lic Pol­icy In­sti­tute of California found that re­me­dial pro­grams — also called de­vel­op­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion — largely fail to help most stu­dents com­plete their aca­demic or vo­ca­tional pro­grams.

Hav­ing so many stu­dents start their fresh­man year be­ing told that they are al­ready be­hind and giv­ing them just one year to dig them­selves out also doesn’t help foster a sense of so­cial or aca­demic be­long­ing, of­fi­cials said.

Un­der the new sys­tem, all Cal State stu­dents will be al­lowed to take cour­ses that count to­ward their de­grees be­gin­ning on Day 1. Stu­dents who need ad­di­tional sup­port in math or English, for ex­am­ple, could be placed in “stretch” cour­ses that si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vide re­me­dial help and al­low them to com­plete the gen­eral math and English cred­its required for grad­u­a­tion.

Fac­ulty are also be­ing en­cour­aged to ex­plore other in­no­va­tive ways to em­bed ad­di­tional aca­demic sup­port in col­lege-level cour­ses. A few other states have ex­per­i­mented with th­ese ap­proaches, and the re­sults so far are en­cour­ag­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tors said.

“This will have a tremen­dous ef­fect on the num­ber of units stu­dents ac­cu­mu­late in their first year of col­lege,” said James T. Mi­nor, Cal State’s se­nior strate­gist for aca­demic suc­cess and in­clu­sive ex­cel­lence. “It will have an enor­mous ef­fect on col­lege af­ford­abil­ity, on the num­ber of semesters that a stu­dent is required to be en­rolled in be­fore they earn a de­gree, and it will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the num­ber of stu­dents that ul­ti­mately cross a com­mence­ment stage with a de­gree in hand, ready to move into the work­force, ready to move into grad­u­ate or pro­fes­sional school.”

In ad­di­tion to re­design­ing re­me­dial re­quire­ments sys­temwide, the ex­ec­u­tive order in­structs cam­puses to strengthen their sum­mer Early Start pro­grams. Start­ing in 2019, Early Start — sum­mer prep for in­com­ing fresh­men — will no longer fo­cus on non­credit re­me­dial cour­ses and will in­stead of­fer stu­dents the chance to prepare for col­lege-level work while also com­plet­ing cour­ses for credit.

Some Cal State cam­puses, such as San Mar­cos and San Bernardino, have al­ready be­gun to re­design their sum­mer pro­grams based on this ap­proach.

Cal State of­fi­cials said the ex­ec­u­tive order was is­sued af­ter ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion with stu­dents and fac­ulty, who will spend the next year coming up with new and cre­ative cur­ricu­lum and course mod­els in math and English for first-year stu­dents.

“Our time­line for im­ple­men­ta­tion is ag­gres­sive,” Mi­nor said, but “we’ve got more than enough ev­i­dence to sug­gest that our current treat­ment of stu­dents, with the use of de­vel­op­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses, doesn’t serve them very well . ... And we have worked with and talked to our fac­ulty ... who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that we need to do to serve our stu­dents bet­ter.”

News of the sys­temwide changes rip­pled across California on Thurs­day. Some ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cacy and non­profit groups said the shift from stan­dard­ized place­ment ex­ams to a “mul­ti­ple-mea­sures ap­proach” was a huge step in the right di­rec­tion — but that the devil will be in the de­tails. “There’s still the ques­tion of how ex­actly this will be im­ple­mented,” said Audrey Dow, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of the Cam­paign for Col­lege Op­por­tu­nity, which has been fol­low­ing the is­sue closely.

California Com­mu­nity Col­leges Chan­cel­lor Eloy Or­tiz Oak­ley, in an interview with The Times, also en­dorsed the mul­ti­ple-mea­sures ap­proach, which he said the com­mu­nity col­lege sys­tem is also adopt­ing.

“This is the right ap­proach for all of pub­lic higher ed­u­ca­tion, par­tic­u­larly for broad-ac­cess pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions like the com­mu­nity col­leges and the CSU,” he said. “I per­son­ally strongly be­lieve that stan­dard­ized place­ment ex­ams have hand­i­capped hun­dreds of thou­sands of our stu­dents, and they par­tic­u­larly tar­get low-in­come stu­dents and stu­dents of color. We have, in my opin­ion, been plac­ing many stu­dents in re­me­dial cour­ses that re­ally didn’t be­long in those re­me­dial cour­ses — and in do­ing so have made it harder for them to com­plete their col­lege ed­u­ca­tions.”

‘This will have a tremen­dous ef­fect on the num­ber of units stu­dents ac­cu­mu­late in their first year of col­lege.’ — James T. Mi­nor, Cal State se­nior strate­gist for aca­demic suc­cess and in­clu­sive ex­cel­lence

Ge­naro Molina Los Angeles Times

CAL STATE’S chan­cel­lor announced a plan that will end non­credit re­me­dial classes start­ing in fall 2018. Un­der the new sys­tem, all Cal State stu­dents will be al­lowed to take cour­ses that count to­ward their de­grees be­gin­ning on Day 1. Above, Cal State Northridge.

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