Faculty groups line up to oppose plan
A reform package approved by the Board of Governors to help more community college students reach their educational goals is loaded with unintended consequences that could erode the mission of the California Community College system.
That’s according to the Community College Association, the California Teachers Association, and other major faculty organizations that are lining up to oppose the recommendations of the Student Success Task Force as they head toward the Legislature.
“The proposed changes will forever modify the scope and nature of the Master Plan for Higher Education, which has been the bulwark of how the Community Colleges have served the students of California,” CCA President Ron Norton Reel said when he testified before Chancellor Jack Scott and the Board of Governors in January. “It will eliminate hundreds of thousands of students from attending college.”
The Student Success Task Force came out of legislation initially approved in 2010 which charged the California Community Colleges Board of Governors with adopting a plan for improving student success by 2012. Draft recommendations were issued in September by the task force and were aired in hastily convened public hearings before they were approved by the Board of Governors in January. At press time, the recommendations were expected to be introduced in the Legislature as the Student Success Act of 2012.
Although the recommendations are designed to rebalance priorities to award more associate degrees and transfer more students to four-year colleges, they would limit other students who are unable to attend college full-time, or who may only need select courses. Those most likely to be affected by the changes are the poor, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and English-language learners, thousands of whom will be prevented from obtaining access to higher education.
New definition of success
At the core of the issue is the narrow definition of success, and whether it is limited to students who are able to get through college in a timely way.
“If we eliminate the most vulnerable, those students of color, and those who are our most poor, our numbers may look better, but our society will forever suffer losses of mass economic destruction,” Reel said in comments to the Board of Governors.
He vividly recalled a student of his at Mt. San Antonio College who enrolled in speech and writing courses because he thought he might want to become an actor. Anthony Zuicker never received his Associate or Bachelor’s degree, but he did go on to create the hit TV series, CSI: New York, and CSI Miami. Yet, Zuicker’s story would not fit the example of student success, Reel said.
Community college faculty around the state objected to the way the recommendations flew through the hearing process.
“There wasn’t enough time to get faculty buy-in,” said Keith Law, president of the Merced College Faculty Association, who was an early critic of the plan. “The recommendations are based on inadequate research, and they were steamrolled into place too rapidly for proper feedback,” he said.
The CCA is also concerned that the task force report is an attempt to remove local control from the local Boards of Trustees of the 72 community college districts.
“It would empower the Board of Governors, and by extension the Chancellor’s office, with unfettered power to dictate the structure of community college education,” Reel said.
One example of this is that the recommendations would have a single centralized test created by a private company (contracted by the California State Chancellor's Office) with one statewide score to determine eligibility to take college-level courses. Today’s tests are state-approved local placement tests, which takes into account demographic factors.
“A one-size-fits-all approach does not serve local communities nor is it accountable to local communities,” Reel said.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact your chapter president to become involved in your association’s plans
Work with your local Board of Trustees on resolutions opposing the plan
Track developing legislation on www.leginfo.ca.gov
Start making appointments to meet with your legislators in their district offices
Stay current on www.CCA4me.org