California is home to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the current force behind two pathway projects: Statway and Quantway.
An underlying assumption behind alternative pathways is that mathematics requirements for degrees and/or certificates should vary according to discipline. California's Student Success Task Force report contends, "Improved student support structures and better alignment of curriculum with student needs [Emphasis added] will increase success rates in transfer, basic skills, and career technical/workforce programs." The National Center on Education and the Economy 2013 report, "What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready?" states, "But our research...shows that students do not need to be proficient in most of the topics typically associated with Algebra II and much of Geometry to be successful in most programs offered by the community colleges."
The Carnegie Foundation, The Charles A. Dana Center at U.T. Austin, and the California Community College Success Network (3CSN) all promote alternative pathways to allow students in non-STEM disciplines an option of completing a university-transferable mathematics course without requiring the students to demonstrate completion of an intermediate algebra course.
The two California university systems, the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) have been cautious in embracing the idea of alternative pathways in California Community Colleges (CCCs).
One pathway strategy is to provide students with an alternative prerequisite to an existing transferable statistics class. The alternative prerequisite does not have all traditional intermediate algebra topics and does not have elementary algebra as prerequisite. And in response to this strategy, Nancy Purcille of the UC Office of the President sent a March 7, 2013 email to CCC articulation officers:
"The prerequisite for UC-transferable math courses continues to be intermediate algebra or equivalent. No attempt at this time will be made by UC to define specific content/courses that may be deemed “valid” alternate prerequisites. When submitting a course for TCA review, if CCC faculty propose a prerequisite that they judge to be the equivalent of intermediate algebra, then UCOP articulation analysts will treat the prerequisite as such and evaluate the course outline as usual. UC will not be evaluating the prerequisites listed – unless it is jointly requested by the CCC and UC faculty."
This position appears to respect the tenet that the community college should be able to decide the appropriate developmental math required to prepare its students for the articulated transfer-level math course.
The CSU provided a different position to accommodate alternative pathways. Ken O'Donnell of the CSU Office of the Chancellor sent a November 2, 2012 email to CCC articulation officers that appeared to be discouraging alternative pathways:
"Please take this email as a reminder that only courses with a full prerequisite of intermediate algebra, as traditionally understood, will continue to qualify for CSU Area B4 [math/quantitative reasoning requirement to transfer].
"The CSU has made a recent exception for the Statway curriculum, under controlled and very limited circumstances, so we can evaluate whether other approaches will satisfactorily develop student proficiency in quantitative reasoning. In the meantime, we count on the articulation community to uphold the current standard."
But Ken O'Donnell sent an April 2013 email acknowledging without objection the strategy of keeping the intermediate algebra the official prerequisite for the transfer math course but facilitating CCC student challenges to that prerequisite.
The CSU Chancellor’s General Education Advisory Committee has looked into this use of the prerequisite challenge process, and determined that it has no grounds to comment. How community colleges meet curricular requirements that are below baccalaureate level is up to the colleges, and not up to the receiving transfer institutions. In other words, community colleges may participate in initiatives like Acceleration in Context and the California Acceleration Project without jeopardizing articulation, because the transferable B4 course is unchanged; only the intermediate algebra prerequisite is challenged.
Thus both the UC and the CSU are tacitly giving CCCs the go-ahead to develop alternative pathways.