The English and math departments are already archiving some of their classes.
By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Although Assembly Bill 705 is not set to take full effect until fall 2019, Valley College has already begun to cancel classes in preparation.
Passed unanimously by the California Legislature in October 2017, AB 705 is designed to increase the number of students who will complete transfer-level English and math courses within one year. Rather than rely on placement exams, community colleges would be required to use a student’s high school coursework, grades or GPA in determining where the student is placed. The bill’s goal is to ensure students are not placed in a remedial course unless evidence indicates the student will not succeed in a transfer-level course.
The bill went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, with the changes set rolling out by the fall 2019 semester. Though the 2018-19 school year is not over, some remedial and basic skills courses are being archived. Within Valley’s English department, 15 classes were canceled this semester. Of those 15, half were English 28 courses that will no longer be offered due to the bill.
“I have archived, just while I was chair, English 33, 300 and 21,” said English Department Chair William Wallis, “these are all basic-skills courses, and we’ll be archiving 28 possibly this summer.”
The math department is experiencing a shuffle in classes, as well. According to STEM Counselor Kassidy Miller, there have been some course cancellations though she was unable to give specifics. Miller explained that some prerequisites are being archived while others remain available. However, taking those classes will no longer be required to take Math 215, 238, 245 or 227 -- the transfer-level math courses.
Although the math department will be cutting back on some classes, Miller believes that AB 705 is beneficial for students, getting them through school more quickly.
“The data shows that students who are able to start with transferable-level coursework do just as well as students who took the prerequisite courses,” Miller said. “It will help time as well, especially for a lot of our STEM majors. Math is something that takes them a long time.”
According to a research study at Los Angeles Mission College conducted during the 2016-17 school year, 52 percent of students had to retake all of high school math due to being placed at least three levels below the transfer level; only 10 percent of students were placed in a transfer-level course.
Under the default placement rules, students with a high school GPA of at least 3.0 have a 75 percent success rate in statistics/liberal arts math. For STEM math classes, students with a GPA at least 3.4 -- or a 2.6 if they’re enrolled in a high school calculus class as well -- have the same rate of success.
While Wallis is of the same mind as Miller, he also recognizes the added pressure of making sure students who would have been placed in a basic-skills course make it through successfully.
“I think that the big problem for us as teachers … is finding the techniques and ideas to teach a broader range of abilities,” Wallis said. “I and other administrators have to reduce the number of students in a class, so that the hard work teachers do has a better effect.”
While the department chairs see the benefits of AB 705, others see the potential negative outcomes. Saad Mehr, a tutor at the Valley Math Lab, believes that archiving remedial classes will significantly increase the number of students seeking help.
“We have plenty of students who need help with basic math,” Mehr said. “It will increase our workload, and we’re busy enough already.