No placement tests or prerequisites can risk higher failure rates at transfer level

Abhiram Rishi Prattipati, Staff Reporter

Students can now register in transfer level courses such as EWRT 1A, precalculus, and statistics without taking any prerequisites and placement tests with the AB705 bill.

The bill requires community colleges to “maximize the probability that the student will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in English and mathematics within a one-year timeframe.”

“Maybe they can only take transfer level math in their first quarter and in their second quarter they take English instead,” said Mallory Newell, supervisor of De Anza institutional research and planning. “So they have seven units of math and they are done with math and that’s as far as they want to go.”

AB705 suggests courses based on high school transcripts. Students with a higher GPA can take the regular course while students with lower GPA are recommended to take an equivalent course and a supportive two-unit corequisite course.

“It is more work on the student, more hours, but in the life of their college career, that’s more hours this quarter, better chance to pass, and less quarters of math overall because they don’t have the prerequisite work,” said Cheryl Balm, Math Performance Success professor.

Other community colleges shared their experiences and results with implementing this bill at an AB705 workshop at De Anza College on April 12.

“We are opening completely to them,” said Amy Lehman, dean of counseling and educational support services at Cabrillo College. “It’s a lot of trust we are giving to the students and we are finding that they are making those choices based on what they know about themselves.”

Some colleges that have implemented AB705 and opened transfer level courses to more students have seen success rates decrease with higher enrollment.

Without placement tests, more students enroll in transfer-level classes, but the percentage of students who actually pass the classes may decrease.

For example, 556 students successfully completed a statistics class in Fall 2018 with open enrollment, compared to 438 students who completed the class in Fall 2017 when students were placed.

But because there were so many more total students in Fall 2018, the overall rate of success declined from 71% in Fall 2017 to 62% the next year.

“You have more students passing because more students have access to the class but your overall success rate may go down,” said Newell. “Since there is a bigger pool of students, more students have access and the possibility of passing.”

“We do feel very constrained and frustrated but we are really trying to do the best we can,” said Balm.

Courses supported by AB705 will be offered in Fall 2019.