Op-Ed: Trust students, not tests, to open pathway to community college success

Thursday, May 3, 2018

As written in EdSource by Jacqui Irwin and Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

It’s all about accurately measuring college readiness — and annihilating the achievement gap in the process.

For far too long, community colleges have relied on often inaccurate assessment tests that each year cause more than a million students nationwide to begin their postsecondary education in remedial courses they may not need. In California alone, more than 170,000 students are placed in remedial, or basic skills, math courses — with more than 110,000 never completing the math required to earn a degree. Even worse, data show students of color are more likely than white students to be sent to multiple remedial courses that do not count toward their college degree. What’s more, each remedial course increases the chances of a student throwing his or her arms up and dropping out.

With mounting evidence that remedial education is not always helpful in getting students to achieve their academic goals, a small but growing number of California colleges are implementing innovative programs to reform how a student’s skill level can be assessed, and what classes to place them in based on those assessments. Giving such efforts a boost, Gov. Jerry Brown last October signed landmark legislation that changes the way student readiness for college-level work is determined. As the author of the legislation that led to that law — Assembly Bill 705 — and as the head of the California Community Colleges system responsible for its implementation, we want to provide additional context to this important conversation.