CSU eliminates remedial classes in push to improve graduation rates

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 5, 2017

"That's actually one of the reasons why I dropped out of my college classes", said Michael De Sena, a former student at Sierra College in Rocklin.

The new policy changes focus on assessment and placement in written communication and mathematics/quantitative reasoning courses in the first year, dramatically reduces pre-baccalaureate courses that have not provided college credit, and significantly strengthens the universitys Early Start Program. CSU says this costs the students money and time that otherwise might be spent taking courses to graduate. Almost 40 percent of incoming freshmen are placed in non-credit remedial classes that don't count toward the completion of a degree, slowing their progress in graduating in four years.

Readin, ‘ritin and ‘rithmetic are areas where freshmen at the 23 campuses of California State University neednt fear remedial classes.

Education Northwest policy analyst Michelle Hodara, the lead author of that study, told The Hechinger Report education website that standardized test scores didn't reflect some important skills: "It's likely that if you have a high GPA, even if you're in an "easy" class, you likely showed up and turned your homework in, and did things that are important for college readiness and success". Almost 3,300 freshmen who entered in fall 2015 did not complete their remedial classes and were ineligible to return to school. According to the memorandum of the executive order, freshman assessment skills will be based on multiple measures of academic proficiency, such as high school grade point averages, ACT scores and SAT scores. In the past, students often enrolled in no-credit remedial classes.

The CSU is the largest and most diverse four-year institution in the nation, enrolling more than 475,000 students across 23 campuses. An additional 4 percent who didn't pass their remedial classes were nonetheless allowed to enroll the following year. That would be a painful irony - CSU adopting the public-relations-first tactics of California public schools in response to problems partly caused by such tactics.

For summer 2018, campuses may continue to offer Early Start Program courses as established under Executive Order 1048 and/or may offer pilot credit-bearing baccalaureate courses.

Katherine Stevenson, a math professor at Cal State Northridge who co-chaired an influential task force on proposed changes to how CSU teaches mathematics, said in an interview she's concerned about Executive Order 1110's timeline for creating the new credit-bearing courses for students in need of remediation. The chancellor's office had hinted at the changes back in May when it sent a draft of the order to the campuses for feedback.

This dovetails with the system's Graduation 2025 initiative to increase six-year graduation rates to 70 percent. Each year, the CSU awards more than 110,000 degrees.

She's also anxious that the executive order doesn't permit universities to provide adequate remedial support for students who'll have to take courses that have both college-level and remedial components. Supportive course models may include, among others, co-requisite approaches, supplemental instruction modules or "stretch" formats that could extend a course beyond one academic term.

"Many students enter CSU struggling with an understanding of arithmetic, and bringing such a student who's interested in, for example biology, to the level of college algebra will be very challenging with only that one-unit support course", Stevenson said.

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