Capitol Alert

CSU eliminates remedial classes in push to improve graduation rates

Aiming to help thousands of students who get sidetracked in developmental courses that don’t count toward their degrees, California State University will do away next year with traditional remedial education.

In an executive order issued Wednesday night, Chancellor Timothy White directed the 23-campus system to overhaul by fall 2018 its curriculum for students found to be unprepared for college-level English and math. About 39 percent of CSU’s incoming freshmen, or 25,000 students, are required to take remedial classes for no credit before they can begin their general education.

University officials argue this is no longer the right approach in an era of mounting concerns over college affordability. They have already undertaken an ambitious plan to more than double four-year graduation rates to 40 percent by 2025.

“The idea that students have to take courses that don’t count toward their degree costs them money and costs them time,” said James Minor, senior strategist for academic success and inclusive excellence at CSU.

Minor added that the separate remediation track sends an “unintended message” to students, many of whom get discouraged that are they not progressing toward their ultimate goal of graduation. Nearly 3,300 freshmen who entered in fall 2015 did not complete their remedial classes and were ineligible to return to school.

“It really invites first-generation students to question whether or not they really belong in college,” Minor said.

The order leaves it to campuses to decide how they will meet the new curriculum policy, but all students can expect to earn credit starting their first day. Freshmen who would usually be directed to developmental English or math will instead enroll in the same general education classes as their peers, but they might receive additional tutoring or take the course at a slower pace, stretched over multiple semesters. A summer program for incoming freshmen who need extra preparation will be redesigned to count for credit.

CSU also plans to eliminate the placement tests it used to determine students’ readiness for college-level work. Skills assessments will instead be based on high school grades and standardized test scores.

“Placement exams are not the most reliable indicator of how students will perform in the classroom,” Minor said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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