Thursday, August 3, 2017

California State University to End Placement Exams and Remedial Classes for Freshmen

Remember my entry from a couple of weeks back, "Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community College Chancellor, Calls for End to Algebra Requirement for Non-STEM Majors."

The eradication of high standards for California's public education students continues apace. In a few years, students will be able to enter the university, and then likely graduate with a "four-year degree," without any foundation or completion of rigorous math, sciences, and languages.

Educational officials no doubt are dealing with a wave of unprepared students, thrust into the system by the massive open immigration we've had for the last few decades. It's really reaching critical mass. When I started teaching at Long Beach City College in fall of 2000, fully one-third of students enrolled came from a traditional white working-class background. I thought that was minuscule at the time, but now the number's down to about 13 percent white students.

There's nothing wrong with the diversity. In fact, Latinos at my college are more than half of the student population, and they're totally fine. Many, though not all, are indeed very outstanding. On the other hand, I'm having more and more students ---- including many Asians ---- who literally do not speak English. I don't know how they expect to succeed. But they're here and this is the reality in California.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Cal State will no longer require placement exams and remedial classes for freshmen":
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 entry-level mathematics (ELM) test 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 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 freshman each year are considered not ready for college-level 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.

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 encouraged to explore other innovative ways to embed additional academic support within a college-level course. 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...

The end result will of course be to exacerbate social inequality, not reduce it. The economically privileged will continue to have access to very high-quality education, in all aspects of rigorous training, especially math and sciences. And these kind of people will float to the top. It's a system of social sorting that's been going on for a while, made more intense by the nature of the high-tech knowledge economy.