In Education, Locals Talk

by Parmalee Taff

Facts and Opinions  ~ Are these classes effective?

Twenty-five or so years ago I listened to a Cabrillo president explain Cabrillo’s remedial math classes as necessary for students who could not pass Cabrillo’s basic math skills test. At the time I thought, “It’s laudable that Cabrillo saw a need and provided foundational classes to those students who needed the skills.” At the same time I thought, “I’m dismayed that a student could be in school for 13 years (K+ 1-12) and not possess basic Math and English skills.”(Although still in 2023, it would seem, that is an ongoing challenge.)

Recently, retired Professor of Math at Cabrillo College, J Carl Krause, in a FB post, laid down some facts about the levels of math not offered at Cabrillo College. Legislation has been handed down from the state.

J Carl Krause 2023

“About 5 years ago*, I made this [FB] group aware of some changes that were happening in the mathematics department at Cabrillo College. I thought it would be a good time to give you all an update regarding the current situation.

AB705  (AB 705 is legislation intended to support assessment and placement strategies proven to increase student completion rates and close the achievement gap by requiring colleges to consider a student’s high school coursework and GPA as primary determining factors for placement.)

AB1705  (The bill would prohibit a community college district or community college from recommending or requiring students to enroll in pre-transfer level English or mathematics coursework, except under specified circumstances.). Due to his interpretation of this legislation, the current president of Cabrillo College no longer allows the mathematics department to offer any foundational courses that would prepare an incoming student to handle college level mathematics courses.

Currently, all incoming students (regardless of background or recency) will be enrolled in a college level course: typically Math 4 (Pre-calculus) or Math 12 (Elementary Statistics).

Historically, the math department offered courses in pre-algebra, elementary algebra, and intermediate algebra. These were courses that helped get a student ready for a college level course.

Please be aware that these courses are no longer offered.”

*J Karl Krause 2018

“If you have an interest in the California Community College (CCC) system, I thought I’d give you an update on some sweeping changes that are coming. For the record, I am posting as a private citizen and not, in any way, as a spokesperson for Cabrillo College nor as any affiliate of the State of California.

AB705 was passed and signed into law by Governor Brown last October. It says that no incoming students to the CCC system shall be placed into a “remedial level” (high school level or below) course unless there is evidence to show that they are “highly unlikely to succeed” in a college level course. All incoming students shall be placed into a “transfer level” (college equivalent) course.

Traditionally, all students entering the CCC system go through an assessment process. This process results in their initial placement in the Math, English, and Reading departments.

At Cabrillo, the Math component of this assessment process has historically involved incoming students taking a “placement test” … their score on this test was then used to place them into the sequence of Math courses offered. Their score on this single method of assessment either placed them at the “college level” or “below college level”. Historically, about 15% of incoming students place at “college level” and about 85% place at “below college level”.

Starting Fall 2018, all incoming students at Cabrillo will go through a “multiple measures” assessment process that will look at a variety of measures. In addition to their score on the placement test, they will look at a student’s overall high school GPA, their GPA in Math courses taken in high school, and how recently those Math courses were completed. As envisioned, this will more accurately place students. It’s unknown how this new assessment method will affect student placement … it’s anticipated that more students will be placed at the “college level”.

Enter AB705 … the current interpretation of this bill by the CCC Chancellor’s Office is that all students shall be placed at the “college level” and that colleges will no longer offer “below college level” courses. At Cabrillo, this would mean the elimination of all 200 and 100 level courses (roughly 55% of the current offerings in the Math department). Even if a student feels that they are unprepared for college level Mathematics, they will not be offered remedial courses. “Data show” that enrolling students in “lower than college level” courses results in lower success rates “within one year”. The idea of AB705 is to “maximize the probability that a student will complete transfer level Math within one year”. If a student must take remedial courses they are not likely to complete transfer level Math within one year. Therefore all students shall start at the transfer level.

If you are planning to (or care about someone who is planning to) attend a California Community College in the next couple of years it would be wise for you to pay attention to these current developments.”

I asked a professor/friend who teaches at Colby College in Maine what she knows about foundation classes in community colleges. She said the current buzz about foundation classes questions the effectiveness of remedial classes at the college level.

The original source for California facts:

“The transfer-level English completion rate has increased from 52% in 2016-17, when AB 705 was passed, to 67% in 2019-20. The transfer-level Math completion rate increased from 27% to 50% over the same time period.”

“In 2019-20, successful transfer-level English completion rates by students’ race/ethnicity were as follows: 79% for Asian students, 76% for White students, 62% for Hispanic students, and 55% for African American students.”

“For the same year, successful transfer-level Math completion rates by students’ race/ethnicity were as follows: 69% for Asian students, 59% for White students, 42% for Hispanic students, and 34% for African American students.”

Let’s listen to students who took these classes:

Scott: I wonder what would make him make the decision to do that? Stupidity?
J Carl Krause: Manipulated statistics.
Scott: What would be the benefit of these manipulated statistics? Money?
J Carl Krause: That’s a really interesting question. Honestly I don’t know. It may be as simple as “flexing”.
Monica: Do they offer support courses as co-requisites for students who need the extra support? Or any non credit foundational courses?
J Carl Krause: Yes, co-requisite support is available. While initially offered, non-credit courses have been eliminated.

Robin: Is the Math Plus program still flourishing?
J Carl Krause:
Yep! Math Plus is awesome, but not a substitute for a full preparatory course.

Alma: Side note: is this THE professor Krause?? You taught me Stats and I was then able to transfer to SJSU. I have a masters degree now. You made Stats make sense to me.

Alice: Algebra in community college is so important.. saves the wasted time and money at the university level later on. Not every one is a math Wiz.. and would benefit from Algebra being offered at community colleges.

Robert: Not in my experience…

Sarah: I can’t understand this. Community college should offer these classes, as so many high school kids do poorly and need the additional support.  In fact, while this will age me, I started in a 4 year college in 1980 after graduating from a very small high school in Oregon with a single math teacher that was not very good. When I started college as a freshman, we had to take a math placement test and I tested into Algebra. I excelled in that math class, moved on to Trigonometry which I also loved and then finally on to Calculus – which is where many of my peers started in college as their high school experience was better. I went on to get a chemistry degree and a minor in math. I have had a wonderful career in high tech. Just because I needed to start with Algebra in college did not define me as a poor student – I just was not given the opportunity in high school. Math is an important fundamental skill and Algebra should definitely be offered at both the community college and college level.

Rafael: What? I needed those classes when I was at community college to make up for not taking them in high school. I would never have gotten through calculus without them.

Josie: The classes in algebra at Cabrillo are what helped me make my way to a UCsc, graduating with honors. So sorry to see this…

Monica: For those who want to learn more about the AB705/1705 law. As an educator, I see both sides of this. I think that fundamentals should be offered as noncredit courses.  CCCCO.EDU, Equitable Placement | California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office

Jeff: I think those classes are non-tranferable anyway. There are reasons tied to the success rates of pre-req classes vs transfer classes; i.e., the majority taking pre-reqs don’t go on to complete the transferable classes, according to the studies used to justified the laws. However, Newsome also signed AB 1187, which will expand tutoring at community colleges for those students needing help. Basically sounds like a numbers game, and the increase in success comes at the cost of all remedial students that have an inherently lower transfer unit completion rate. I don’t think a student jumping into a college math class without having completed the prerequisite high school classes will be successful even with the best tutor.

Thad: Seems like mandating Math 2 for all HS Sophomores & Math 3 for all juniors should have preceded this bill.

Lara: I took intermediate algebra there many years ago. I didn’t do great in high school. It gave me a lot of confidence that I could do well in math. Are they recommending people take the classes through adult education?

Mary: This makes no sense.

Babs: That makes zero sense

Robert: Good Intermediate Algebra is pointless for a lot of degrees. If anything, it blocks people from going on to a 4-yr. Nearly stopped me from pursuing my dreams, and I have a MA now. As an alumnus of Cabrillo, it took me six (yes, six) different semesters to finally pass intermediate algebra. I only passed after confronting Mr. Davidson and he allowed me to retake the final (questions I missed) over again. I barely passed, but it allowed me to move on. I took statistics in the summer and passed the first time. This allowed me to transfer to a four-year. I currently have an AS (archaeological technology) from Cabrillo; a BS (anthropology) and MA (cultural resources management) from SSU. Point being, I’m glad they are getting rid of this. It did nothing for ‘helping me ready for college’; if anything, it held me back. I wonder how many people never got to pursue their field because they couldn’t pass intermediate algebra.

Denise: It’s so wrong. Many folks don’t take much math in high school for many reasons or they have forgotten…..

Ian: It’s sad to see a stepping stone to the UC system dropping some of the fundamental remedial courses. It’s been a while since I took any math related course and if I decided to return, remedial courses would almost be a requirement or if I wanted to complete an AA in say CNC programming but needed a refresher, math 4 would possibly be overkill. My interpretation of these bills is the college cannot require a transfer student to take a class whose credit will not transfer. Since remedial courses don’t meet that requirement, I would have to choose to take the course and maybe acknowledging that credits do not transfer. But nowhere does it say remedial course cannot be offered. It’s a sad day when a bunch of legislators think they know better. It’s an even sadder day when a college is forced to send a student off unprepared. The gist seems to be just kick the can farther down the road.  Do I hear #50?

Douglas: Sacramento has lost its mind.

Gina: Thank goodness for the support I got from the math lab and my peers. I was terrible at math and that stats class was rough.

Alex: WTH?? NOT EVERYONE, BY A LONG SHOT, IS Good at math! Especially at the local high school level after Covid!!

Kate: What a horrible decision! Cabrillo mathematics gave me the confidence to move on in academics despite being “bad” at math in high school. I was happy to finish school with a BS in web programming thanks to the start I received at Cabrillo (+ Cabrillo math teachers). Is there a petition we can start –one that’s already been started and readily available?

Cindy: What? Cabrillo is a community college catering to pre university students in order to get the basics at a lower cost than a university. Also caters to elder students. Who do you think you are? Harvard? Shame on you.

Given the myriad factors that enter into a student’s levels of learning by the time he/she graduates from high school, it’s not surprising that students are at varying levels of knowledge. At the crossroads age of 18, they are looking at their life’s work/interests and some may be encountering the hard reality of a lack of  specific skills necessary to achieve their goals. Community colleges have played an important role at this stage in their lives.

One student told me, “When I didn’t get accepted at UCSC, I started courses at Cabrillo. I was taking classes with kids my age and adults. It made a big difference because the genuine interest in learning was invigorating, so unlike high school.  I did well, re-applied and was accepted by UCSC.”

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search