Basic skills instruction is not new to higher education or to the California Community Colleges. For a variety of reasons, private and public institutions of higher learning have always had significant numbers of first year students who failed, dropped out or simply from college due to their inability to meet course requirements. In 1874, Harvard first offered freshman English at the request of faculty members dissatisfied with students' preparation in formal writing.
In response to considerable discussion about the establishment of a basic skills discipline and resolutions (numbers 9.8S90 and 9.9S90) at the Spring 1990 Session of the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges, the Ad Hoc Basic Skills Committee which was to include credit and non-credit instructors in basic skills was established in spring 1990 for the purpose of studying the issue of whether to create a pre-collegiate basic skills discipline.
A study of models for program and services review
Since most students take humanities courses during the first two years of college, the community colleges have a particular responsibility in examining and strengthening the role of the humanities in the curriculum. Guidance is needed for our large number of undecided students "shopping" for courses to take, and a coherent humanities component is needed for our many liberal arts majors.
One of the first difficulties encountered by curriculum committees throughout the state was the establishment of a definition of critical thinking broad enough to encompass college level courses throughout the academic and vocational/technical curriculum, as well as a definition that could apply to both content-based and skill-based courses.
Questions to be examined are as follows: What is the relationship of the curriculum committee to its local senate? What is the composition of members of curriculum committees? Who chairs them? If faculty chair their curriculum committee, what is the level of institutional support? What changes are being contemplated by the local senates as a response to the statewide effort to strengthen the role of faculty in their curriculum committees? How satisfied are the senates with the composition and structure or their curriculum committees?
The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges has adopted regulations establishing distinct sets of standards for courses which may or may not be applied for credit toward the associate degree. In addition, the Board of Governors is now requiring that noncredit courses be approved through the same local curriculum review and approval process as that required for credit courses. The revised regulations, which will appear as changes in Title 5, Part Vl of the California Administrative Code, include as new section 55002.
We seem to hear more every day about declining academic standards. In January, the newspapers reported that only about 62 percent of candidates for certificates to teach in California elementary and secondary schools passed tests in basic skills. Many community college faculty are concerned about standards in their institutions, in part because in the late 1960s and the 1970s standards became associated, in the minds of many faculty members and students, with personal rigidity rather than academic rigor.