The California Acceleration Project is a faculty-led organization working to ensure that students in California’s community colleges complete math and English milestones to a college degree. We work at the classroom, college, and state-level to address systemic problems with placement and remediation. Our approach to transforming policy and practice involves a combination of professional development, research, and legislative advocacy.
When CAP began its work in 2010, about 80% of California community college students were required to take remedial math, writing, and/or reading courses that didn’t count toward a bachelor’s degree. Only 41% of students assigned to remedial courses achieved a certificate, associate degree, or transfer-readiness within six years, compared to 71% of those deemed “college ready.” Whether or not a student was deemed “college ready,” and thereby had access to transferable, college-level math and English courses, was determined locally by inconsistent and arbitrary placement policies across the state’s colleges.
We have worked to address the following problems with placement, remediation and curricular structures that drive poor and inequitable student outcomes in English and math.
- Large scale assignment of students to remedial courses that hamper progress toward a college degree
- Inequitable placement policies that disproportionately exclude racially minoritized students from transferable, college-level courses and undermine their completion
- Use of standardized placement tests that are poorly aligned with college curricula and do not predict students’ performance in college-level classes
- Remedial math courses that are not relevant to students’ intended majors and goals
- Separate tracks of remedial reading and writing
- Poor alignment between programs supporting English learners and college English
Three major structural changes dramatically increase student completion of transferable, college-level English and math courses: 1) Transforming placement policies to give students the best chance of completing transferable, college-level math and English, 2) Replacing remedial courses with corequisite support at the college level, and 3) Providing more math or quantitative reasoning course options that are better aligned students’ programs of study.
In the California community college system, these reforms are producing large and unprecedented gains in the number and percentage of students completing English and math requirements for a university degree. For example, with large-scale implementation of these strategies in fall 2019, 50% of students completed transferable, college-level math within a year compared to 26% pre-reform in 2015-2016. Similar relative gains were achieved by Black and Hispanic students, low-income students, students with disabilities, students with weaker high school grades, veterans and foster youth.
Select research related to our work
- The problems with placement testing: Scott-Clayton 2012; Belfield & Crosta 2014
- More accurate placement using high school grades: Bahr et al. 2019
- Higher completion rates with increased access to college-level math and English: Mejia et al. 2020. Benefit to special populations: RPGroup 2021
- Uneven implementation of reforms hampers student progression in math: Willett 2022
- Bypassing remediation produces better math outcomes for STEM students with weaker high school math preparation : Hayward 2021
- California Community College Chancellor’s office dashboard: CCCCO Transfer-level Dashboard 2022