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California Remedial Ed Reform Advances, but Inequities Remain

August 17, 2022

California community colleges have made progress in reducing remedial math course offerings, but inequities in access to credit-bearing courses persist, according to a new report by the California Acceleration Project, a faculty-driven effort to monitor and guide remedial education reform within the system.

The report analyzed fall 2022 course schedules at 115 community colleges to assess the extent to which campuses are complying with Assembly Bill 705, a state law that sought to increase the number of students in introductory math and English courses that provide transferable credits. The report found that 93 percent of introductory math sections in the system in fall 2022 offered course credit, up from 75 percent in fall 2020. Three-quarters of the colleges had course schedules where at least 90 percent of introductory math sections were credit-bearing.

“As a system we are very close to ensuring that most students begin in a course that gives them the best chance of completing math requirements for a degree,” Myra Snell, co-founder of the California Acceleration Project and professor of math at Los Medanos College, said in a press release.

However, remedial courses still make up more than 10 percent of introductory math sections at 30 colleges that students from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to attend, according to the report. A Black student is four and half times more likely than a white student to go to a college that offers more remedial courses, and a Hispanic student is three times more likely.

Advocates of remedial education reform in the state say the data should sway California lawmakers to pass Assembly Bill 1705, which would strengthen prior legislation to reduce the number of students in remedial courses. The bill unanimously passed the State Assembly in May and is now being considered by the State Senate.

“Over a decade of research has established that starting in a remedial class actually makes students less likely to earn a degree,” Christopher J. Nellum, executive director of Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization focused on education in California, said in the release. “Disproportionately, this impacted Black and Latinx students in the community college system. Since AB 705, colleges have made great progress towards addressing this. But inequities still persist—and that’s why we need AB 1705.”

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Sara Weissman

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