A goal of the Common
Core State Standards (CCSS) is to prepare students to be college and career
ready. That goal is also part of the
mission of community colleges. There has
been considerable discussion regarding how
the CCSS might affect students' chances for getting into college, but
scant discussion about how community colleges fit into the implementation of
the CCSS.

Community Colleges
might be assumed to have a distorted view of what it means to be college or
career ready. After all, they typically
use the word "college" when naming themselves, yet eligibility to become
a community college student does not require any minimum GPA nor any minimum
score or ranking in any test. It is
sometimes said that the University of California serves the top 12.5% of
California high school graduates, the California State University system the
top 33.3%, and the California Community Colleges serve the top 100%. But this is too limiting--a high school
diploma is not a requirement for enrollment at any California Community
College.

So at community
colleges, we may worry less about "college ready" but rather focus on
"transfer ready". UCLA and
CSUN are my school's two nearest public universities, and both report that our
transfer students perform slightly better than their native students. So there is evidence that community colleges
are not grossly underestimating what is needed to be transfer ready.

California Community
Colleges are presented with two conflicting mandates . Community colleges are encouraged 1) to align with K-12
standards for college and career readiness (according to the California
Community College Student Success Task
Force http://bit.ly/xOC5aK),
and 2) to provide alternative pathways
to transfer (according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching http://bit.ly/y1EZhX,
the Charles A. Dana Center http://www.utdanacenter.org/mathways/,
etc.).

Explicitly, a
consortium of the Charles A. Dana Center, Complete College America, Inc.,
Education Commission of the States, and Jobs for the Future, asks community
colleges to provide a
"fundamentally new approach for ensuring that all students are
ready for and can successfully complete college-level work that leads to a
postsecondary credential of value.

"...The content
in required gateway courses should align with a student’s academic program of
study — particularly in math... Institutions need to focus on getting students
into the right math and the right English." (from "Core Principles
for Transforming Remedial Education: A Joint Statement" : http://bit.ly/TPqqCp)

The researcher at my
institution estimated that 75% of our students interested in transfer are in
disciplines that require no mathematics beyond an introductory statistics class
to earn a baccalaureate degree at CSUN.
Evidently there are many students who can earn baccalaureate degrees
without taking single course from the
mathematics department of any 4-year school.

The California
Community College Success Network (3CSN.org), the Carnegie Foundation, the Dana Center, and the
Student Success Task Force all recommend removing curricular requirements that act as barriers rather than aids to
program completion. The SSTF report
contends, "Improved student support structures and better alignment of curriculum with student needs will
increase success rates in transfer, basic skills, and career
technical/workforce programs." [emphasis added]

The existing and
proposed curricula of alternative pathways for non-STEM students omit many
topics of intermediate algebra.

On the other hand,
neither the University of California nor the California State University
accepts a math or statistics course to meet
math transfer requirements unless that course has intermediate algebra
as a prerequisite.

If aligning with the
CCSS implies that "intermediate algebra" should mean CCSS Algebra 2
(which includes circular trig and some inferential statistics), then the math
requirements for transfer math courses will increase significantly.

And because
intermediate algebra is the California Community College minimum math requirement for an associate's
degree, the requirement for an AA degree will also increase simultaneously.

It is impossible for
community colleges to remove unnecessary but currently required topics (for transfer to non-STEM disciplines) while
simultaneously not merely maintaining but augmenting that list of required
topics for all students.

## 2 comments:

Bruce,

In my high school, our beacon for getting our students "college ready" is definitely A-G UC and CSU requirement. Community college becomes a secondary choice for students not able to meet the requirement. With CC working toward "transfer ready", we should be looking at our high school course designs and take into consideration that two year program is a reasonable pathway. What recommendations do you have for high schools in math course design?

In today's LA Times, there is an article about governor Brown's recommendation for shaping up California colleges. Improving the graduation rate of community colleges is highlighted as it is a major training ground of CA work force. Brown recommends to tie the funding to the number of students completes the courses rather than the enrollment. Will that add another layer of difficulty for CC?

I think high schools (and community colleges) should have math courses for students pursuing non-STEM disciplines. High school seniors who do not need to be on the path through calculus would usually find more utility in an introductory statistics or quantitative literacy course than in Algebra 2.

The LA Times article at http://lat.ms/SoW2zp does describe Gov. Brown's plan to shift the basis of funding from enrollment to course completion. I am concerned that such a strategy could reward schools for adopting a strategy to increase pass rates by simply lowering standards.

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