Local Implementation of AB 705— What We Know and What Remains to Be Answered

ASCCC Basic Skills Committee Chair
ASCCC Math Task Force Chair
ASCCC Curriculum Committee Chair and AB 705 Workgroup Member

Educational systems and stakeholders are continually working to improve the courses, programs, and services provided to students and the community. One recent legislated effort is the passage of AB 705 (Irwin, 2017), which requires changes in assessment, placement, and basic skills instruction at California community colleges. However, how best to put the legislated requirements into local practice is not clear for all California community colleges. As a result, AB 705 has many colleges asking important questions regarding the precise nature of its requirements and their implementation, as they plan for how to comply with the new law.

AB 705 became effective on January 1, 2018, and it obligates California community colleges to implement fully its provisions by the fall of 2019. These provisions include mandating the use of high school transcript data—including high school grade point average (GPA), grades in select high school courses, and high school courses completed—in the placement of students into English composition, English as a second language (ESL), and mathematics. Colleges will also be required to maximize the likelihood that students will complete transfer level courses in math and English within a one-year timeframe.

At first glance, AB 705 seems fairly simple, but careful examination of the legislated requirements has generated a number of unanswered questions by community college faculty as they work to comply with the new legislation. Here is a partial list of questions that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) has already received related to the local implementation of AB 705:

  • How should a college respond if it does not have access to official high school transcript data?
  • What if no high school transcript data is available for a student?
  • Are colleges required to place students no more than one level below transfer?
  • Is a year defined as a calendar year or as two semesters/three quarters?
  • Will part time students have a different definition of a year based on units taken or completed?
  • Will colleges be required to enroll students in both math and English during their first year?
  • What does it mean to maximize the likelihood of completing a transfer level course in math and English in a one-year timeframe?
  • Are all colleges required to use high school transcript data in the same way?
  • Will the use of assessment tests also still be permitted?
  • What data are colleges required to collect?
  • How are corequisite support courses to be validated?
  • Is there a unit-limit on corequisite support courses?
  • Can corequisite support courses be offered through noncredit?
  • What if high school data is no longer relevant due to a significant lapse of time between high school and community college?

In response, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (Chancellor’s Office or CCCCO) has formed an AB 705 Implementation Workgroup to develop guidance and regulations to assist colleges with local implementation of the requirements of AB 705. The Chancellor’s Office anticipates that the workgroup will conclude its work in February 2018. Recommendations developed by the workgroup will be forwarded to the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee (5C) for final review and approval. While these recommendations will provide guidance to community colleges for English and math, they will exclude ESL, as high school transcript models have been found to be ineffective in the placement of ESL students. Instead, a separate, ESL workgroup is being formed to develop tools for the accurate placement of English language learners.

In addition to the recommendations of the workgroups, the Chancellor’s Office is currently working to establish a data sharing agreement with the California Department of Education to provide California community colleges access to transcript data without going through Cal-PASS Plus. Such a change would be of great benefit to those colleges that do not already have access to Cal-PASS Plus, as these agreements can often take a year or longer to establish.

Yet, even as the AB 705 Implementation Workgroup begins to develop its recommendations, colleges are also under immediate pressure to begin implementation of new assessment procedures and to develop new curriculum to address AB 705. What can colleges do now while the workgroup is developing these guidelines?

If a college does not already have access to official transcript data, the college could request that questions to collect self-reported data be enabled in CCCApply. Under AB 705, colleges that do not have access to official transcript data are permitted, but not required, to use self-reported data or guided placement to place students. Many colleges are already using placement models based on transcript data, like those available through the Multiple Measures Assessment Project (MMAP), to place students. While using the MMAP is one option, faculty can (and should) examine this model as well as other models and modify as needed using student data to optimize student success. MMAP models can found at http://rpgroup.org/All-Projects/ctl/ArticleView/mid/1686/articleId/118/…. Above all, models used for placement are a local decision.

Once new placement models are in place, colleges are required to monitor student success rates and any disproportionate impact. While the Chancellor’s Office has never collected data on the local use of multiple measures, it is possible that colleges will be expected to submit data related to the effectiveness of new placement models based on high school data. Moving from assessment tests to the use of high school data has shown promise, but colleges must determine the effectiveness of their placement models and be prepared to adjust them based upon student performance.

Another factor for colleges to consider are those student cohorts who may not be served by high school placement models. California community college students are of diverse backgrounds, including veterans, international students, refugees, and returning students, many of whom have a significant gap between high school and college. Indeed, for many of our students, high school placement models may prove significantly less effective or impossible. Currently, colleges use assessment tests to place non-traditional populations, yet it is unclear whether assessment testing will continue to be an option once AB 705 has been fully implemented. One option for affected colleges to consider when transcript data is unavailable is guided placement. Two California community colleges, Moorpark College and Mira Costa College, have explored the use of guided selfplacement: students answer a series of questions, and a placement recommendation is generated. This approach is similar to the directed self-placement used by several California State University (CSU) campuses for placement into English. As AB 705 does not define “guided placement,” colleges may determine the method of implementation that will best serve their students.

With full implementation required by fall of 2019, for most colleges, any new or revised curriculum will need to be approved during spring and fall of 2018. To get started, discipline faculty should examine whether their current course sequences make sense for students. While AB 705 requires colleges to maximize the likelihood that students complete transfer level math and English within a one-year timeframe, colleges are not required to place all students directly into transfer level courses, nor are they required to have a single pre-transfer level course. Groups like the Carnegie Math Pathways and the California Acceleration Project have developed accelerated and/or alternative course sequences that reduce the time for students to complete a transfer level course. While this approach has worked well for some colleges, other colleges argue that these models are not effective for their student population, nor viable for their college. AB 705 permits colleges to offer corequisite courses for students as additional support. Colleges may be able to use noncredit courses for the corequisites, which would allow students to access additional support without additional fees or units. Faculty should examine all possibilities and be open to exploring different options to meet the needs of all students to ensure students are equipped to learn and succeed, as they move to a transfer institution or workplace. Too, smaller colleges may have fewer options due to limited resources. As there is no single model that will work for all students or all colleges, faculty should consider developing options and providing guidance to students on the benefits of each of the options. Additional guidelines on possible course revisions and the corequisite support models will be shared by the ASCCC as they are developed.

To examine potential changes to math and quantitative reasoning requirements for associate and baccalaureate degrees, the ASCCC has formed a California Community College Math Task Force with the California Mathematics Council of Community Colleges (both north and south affiliates). This task force will work to accomplish the following charges:

  1. Research the various and diverse perspectives on appropriate content for math/quantitative reasoning education for non-STEM majors;
  2. Develop recommendations on math/QR standards for non-STEM majors;
  3. Develop a plan for how to provide opportunities for more students to consider STEM fields;
  4. Provide a report to stakeholders to consider that includes the research results and recommendations.

Additional information regarding these charges and the group’s progress will be available this spring. In the meantime, we encourage local faculty to discuss possible solutions while avoiding any final decisions until more definitive information is distributed by the Chancellor’s Office.

California community colleges are poised to undergo significant changes in curriculum, as well as student placement and support. Compliance with AB 705 involves changes to many variables, all of which need to be considered by local faculty through a facultydriven process involving sound analyses of relevant data. To this end, collaboration between local faculty and research staff is essential to determine what data to collect and analyze, as sound data collection and analyses require highly-trained and expensive expertise.

As guidance emerges from the Chancellor’s Office, community colleges will be able to decide which options work best for local implementation. Even so, colleges should continue to collect and analyze data for disproportionate impact to ensure equity and student success. There are no simple answers, and no group knows exactly what will be required to implement fully AB 705. Yet, colleges have enough information to start considering options. Colleges should use this spring term as the time to consider and explore what has worked and not worked and to think about future possibilities, while staying engaged with ASCCC for the most current available information.