Remedial education is holding California community college students back from achieving their full potential.
Opinion by Kevin Khachatryan, Staff Writer
Community colleges are designed for students from all walks of life, whether they are returning to school, trying to boost their GPA before transferring to a four-year university or just hoping to save money. If a student in need of pre-transfer-level courses is forced to enroll in transfer-level courses, they could feel forced to drop out due to the lack of preparation. This will cause students to waste time and money.
Remedial courses are designed to prepare students for transfer-level courses and ensure their success in future academics. Assembly Bill 1705 severely restricts the ability of community colleges to offer remedial math and English courses for pre-transfer level courses. This is because the bill requires community college students to expand their efforts to enroll and support students in transfer-level math and English courses. This will deter students from fulfilling their academic goals by forcing students into classes above their level. While graduating in the shortest amount of time possible is ideal, adequately preparing students for the next level of coursework is more important. Statewide data makes clear just how bad this policy is: in fall 2019, just 14 percent of students who took remedial math courses completed a transferable course within a year, compared to 60 percent of students who started directly in transfer-level courses.
“AB 1705 virtually destroyed second chance opportunities for students,” said Rosemarie Bezerra Nader, professor of mathematics at Fresno City College, to Campus Reform about the effects of AB 1705. “Students who made poor choices in high school, those who were not proficient in the English Language, will all be affected by this bill.”
Remedial courses give students a second chance at fulfilling their academic goals. Taking remedial classes away would take away those opportunities from students who are already disenfranchised. Accelerating unprepared students through these classes will only result in a generation of untrained graduates receiving meaningless diplomas.
When AB 1705 prohibited colleges from forcing students into remedial classes, one-year completion of transfer-level courses increased from 49 percent to 67 percent in English and from 26 percent to 50 percent in math statewide. On the other hand, when full-time students were seeking to get their bachelors degree, 74 percent were more likely to drop out of college if they took remedial courses in their first year. The lack of preparation for students in these courses is a big reason why test scores have been dropping in recent years. According to the New York Times, math scores dropped by 41 percent in nearly every state and English scores dropped by 31 percent. A downward trend in student success is clearly a result of the new policy.
It is clear that remedial classes cost students time and money and do not move them closer to their goals. Students tend to take longer to transfer because they are essentially taking classes that don’t matter and are useless toward a diploma. Calmatters points out that of the students enrolled in remedial classes, more than 50 percent of those students have wasted more than three years of their college education to complete their remedial classes starting with math and English classes that are three tiers below the level students ultimately need to take to transfer.
Even though remedial classes can be stressful and tough for students, it is still needed to give them better chances on test scores. The classes will give students time to prepare and feel confident about their chance of success. Remedial programs are helping to expand in many places because so many kids faced learning challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“None of these programs or bills are going to accomplish what we need in order to turn this mess around,” said John Almy, professor of English at Yuba Community College, to Campus Reform.“You do not need to accelerate people who do not know the basics. You slow down and teach them what they desperately need to know.”