Assembly Bills 19 and 705 to affect incoming students

Frank Portillo

Two assembly bills were passed by California legislature recently that might impact the student population on campus.

A free year of community college for first-time students and self-assessments for new students were the main focus of the Senate Executive Committee meeting Wednesday. The committee spent a large portion of the meeting discussing ways in which it can assist the math and English faculty with the new Assembly Bills.

Assembly Bill 19 allows first-time college students who are enrolled in 12 or more units to receive tuition fee waivers.

AB 705 allows students to self-assess into English and math courses based on their high school grade point average and grade in the highest level of math or English completed.

Academic Senate President Jeffrey Hernandez said that East Los Angeles College, along with the rest of the community colleges in California, will start using high school grades and coursework to place first-time students into English and math courses.

He also said that the new rules will be implemented as early as Fall 2018, but it is too early to know the full extent at which the campus would be affected.

“One reason is that the state still needs to issue implementation regulations. … The state regulation will guide when we can and cannot use placement tests for certain students. Another reason it is too early is that departments and programs throughout the state are still trying to figure out the best approach for following the new laws, given the needs and resources at their college,” Hernandez said.

“We also know that ELAC and all the other colleges will need to help first-time students complete transfer-level math and English within one year,” Hernandez said.  English as a Second Language students will have three years to complete their English courses. 

“It is likely that students will be placed into English classes that are at a higher level than where they are currently being placed,” English Department Chair Ruth Blandon said.

Blandon said in the early stages of the bill’s implementation that the future of the Assessment Center “is up in the air,” but said it’s too early to tell what will happen.

Blandon said the departments are working to ensure that the students aren’t “being thrown into the deep end,” or being made to “sink or swim,”

“There are still a lot of discussions taking place before we have more specific directions on how to proceed,” Blandon said.

Blandon has mixed feelings about students having the ability to self-assess.

“We have had students who, because of the assessment, we have them in class, and then it turns out that we think they probably would’ve done well in a higher class. There have been students that have been placed accurately, so it’s been a mixed bag,” Blandon said.

Math department chair Joe Kazimir said that the process of students self-assessing has proved successful in other states. He also thinks that assessments will be phased out for new students.

“There might be a transition period where we have to decide how many classes we’re going to offer. There will be some students who will want to assess themselves too high and if they fail, it becomes a wasted student.

He said that since the bill requires students to finish transfer-level math within a year, the department is trying to make it easier for students by offering what he calls classes with support.

“(A student) might assess into a 125 course with support which would be a five unit class with three units of support,” Kazimir said.

The support material is akin to co-requisites and provides information crucial to the lesson but will be part of the course itself.

“If (the classes) were big unit (classes), students would meet for about two hours and five minutes each day instead of twice a week,” Kazimir said

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