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AB705 - Tool of Disenfranchisement

On January 1, 2018, California Assembly Bill 705 went into effect, decimating students' options for remediation in Mathematics and English. Someone whose high school record is filled with poor choices or extenuating circumstances that prevented them from learning what they needed are now forced to enter transfer-level Math and English. A parent whose kids are no longer toddlers and wishes to go back to school but needs to brush up on basic skills has no options. The ONLY option (with few, if any, exceptions) is transfer-level courses.

As a community college professor of some 16+ years, I am privileged to be part of so many students’ journeys. Many of these students started in remedial math classes and made their way to any manner of university , from our local CSU to the likes of UC Berkeley and UCLA. Their stories are nothing less than inspirational. And the resilience of such students is infectious to those around them. Imagine the humility and courage of a parent learning how to add fractions – the very mathematics their child has already mastered. Imagine the clean slate enjoyed by those who squandered their high school opportunities. Once realities, these stories are legislatively relegated to just that – imagination.

The argument is that remedial courses serve as barriers. Researchers claim that students enrolling directly in transfer-level classes outperform those who start below transfer level. The elephant in the room is that their data was predominantly taken during the Covid-19 pandemic. I can appreciate the need for different paths to satisfy math requirements. If I am an English major, I might be better served taking a liberal-arts math class than starting in algebra and drudging through. But what if I want to take algebra simply because I never fully learned it? If I want to study a science or pursue engineering, how am I going to do calculus without knowing mathematics below calculus? The blanket rule that all remediation is out simply does not serve students in our community. And consider this piece of California’s Community College mission:

The provision of remedial instruction for those in need of it and, in conjunction with the school districts, instruction in English as a second language, adult noncredit instruction, and support services which help students succeed at the postsecondary level are reaffirmed and supported as essential and important functions of the community colleges.

My biggest fear is that in a few years, when we examine the effectiveness of AB705, we see vast increases in success – or more honestly, the illusion of success. Students needing and wanting remediation have no options and will simply stop enrolling. What is left are those who are prepared and set up for success. Thus, after the disenfranchised have removed themselves from the system, the remaining students will have higher success rates. Disgusting? Yes. Unethical? Absolutely!

So how do we fight against this educational malpractice? The first and foremost action is to increase public awareness. Broadcast the tragic reality to parents and high school students all over California. Next, engage your local state assembly persons and senators. Third, put pressure on local campuses to find the data that meets the burden of proof required by the state of California. Afterall, at some point compliance becomes complicity. Our community deserves better. Let’s demand better.

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