Do you speak ASCCC? Involvement in senate activities at the state level seems to alter one’s speech and thinking. I never realized how strange we can sound until I saw a man’s face as he watched me on the phone while I was having my oil changed. I was probably saying something along the lines of “Are we ready for the DIG? Have you contacted the members of the FDRG? When is that ICC meeting?” Acronyms once were the norm; now numbers seem to be. “Did you read AB 515? Can you believe what happened to SB 292?” And, today, the numbers are most commonly are confronted with are 1143 and 1440.
I mentioned that thinking also changes—or, rather, it should. When considering policies, practices, and legislation, one needs to move beyond the local conversations. The question is not “What does this do for me?” but rather “What is the impact on the system?” and “How will this play out in 112 local contexts?” This requires one to recognize the diverse ways that anything can be received. In the interest of protecting the vulnerable, one should always consider things from the perspective of the local senate that does not feel empowered, that worries about inappropriate influences from its board or administration. As we all know, we have a diverse system with colleges that are healthy and those that are simply not. As a consequence, a regulation change that would have little impact on one college might create chaos at another.
The acronyms continue to play a big role in the work we do and help simplify our speech—and confuse the uninitiated. Today’s numerical concerns are the focus in this issue of the Rostrum—a consideration of different perspectives on the implementation of Senate Bill 1143 (Liu, 2010) and Senate Bill 1440 (Padilla, 2010). SB 1143 was legislation that began as a change in our funding that would have had devastating effects on our already financially devastated colleges and ended as legislation that established a task force charged with making recommendations intended to increase success at the colleges. SB 1440 established associate degrees for transfer and was a much-improved version of a bill from the prior year that did little to impact transfer but did much to interfere with local curriculum (Assembly Bill 440, Beall, 2009). While AB 440 mandated that community colleges eliminate their “local graduation requirements” and did little more, SB 1440 offers real benefits to students in addition to forcing us to remove those pesky local graduation requirements. Who needs information and/or cultural competency in today’s world?
Over the past few months, discussions about the draft recommendations from the Student Success Task Force have begun. Prior to a draft intended for vetting, those who attended the task force meetings were given copies of earlier versions, and rumor has it that someone posted unreleased documents on Facebook. As a consequence, discussion about recommendations that both are and are not in the document we are considering today began some time ago. The final draft recommendations were formally released on September 30, 2011. Prior to and since that date, presentations of the recommendations have been happening across the state in various venues. I would encourage faculty to read the recommendations carefully and completely. And, after you have digested their contents, read them again. You will likely see something new each time you revisit the lengthy document. I was speaking to an administrator who had read it just once. As his college is in the unique position of currently assessing and orienting all students, he was not concerned about one recommendation (2.2) that may be viewed as an insurmountable challenge by many. As our conversation continued, he came to realize that a whole population of students his college currently serves would be no more (the so-called “exempt” students) as course offerings are driven by the educational plans of matriculated students and that there would be, if the recommendations were implemented in their current form, high stakes consequences associated with not following a prescribed education plan. It is critical that local faculty develop an understanding of the recommendations so that the ultimate faculty response is an appropriate one. What elements can we support and what elements would we like to see changed? Are there better ways to achieve the stated goals?
We begin our exploration of 1143 with a task force member’s view of what transpired. Jane Patton, past Academic Senate President and task force member, shares the challenge of being on the task force—especially of being a faculty member on the task force. As an audience member, I can report that there was nothing easy about being a task force member; I was honestly thankful to not be one. The next article, “Faster is Not Better, Better is Better”, addresses one of the recommendations—or rather two, depending on how you look at it. There is much emphasis on doing better by our basic skills students—or, rather, doing what we do faster. Regardless of your view on the topic, I hope we can all agree that one size does not fit all and that it is critical that we have options available to meet the needs of all students. Interestingly, as David Morse quotes elements of the recommendations, we see some disconnects in the recommendations that may have not been readily apparent on that first read; the recommendations do nothing to increase resources for counseling, yet all students are to receive a full array of matriculation services and we are to monitor their progress and “A student who is unable to declare a program of study by the end of their second term should be provided counseling and other interventions.” Next, the Smiths (Beth and Phil—no relation) demonstrate the positive effect of having a reliable funding source for improving instruction. Looking at the numbers, one can easily make the case for dollars dedicated to improving basic skills outcomes as we can show that this truly does work. Recommendation 5.1. proposes changes in Title 5 that would impact supplemental instruction. In “Separating Learning Assistance and Tutoring ” Ray Sanchez considers the current regulations regarding these forms of supplemental instruction and provides a context for considering the related recommendation. And, finally in our consideration of 1143, we visit issues related to noncredit and full-time faculty.
The need to share different views of SB 1440 prompted this themed Rostrum and takes me back to what things look like from the system or state level perspective. At a hearing on the implementation of 1440 back in July, an array of concerns about 1440 were expressed—concerns that those intimately involved with the implementation of 1440 were very much aware of, but concerns that might not be universally known. With that in mind, the vision of a Rostrum dedicated to varied perspectives emerged. As fate would have it, 1143 grew larger and larger, leading to a less thorough exploration of 1440 and this legislation-based Rostrum.
SB 1440 and 1143 both share the challenge of the “devil being in the details.” We have yet to get into the details of 1143, and we may have significant issues with major components of the recommendations. With SB 1440, we are grappling with the timeline. We had a bill signed one year ago with an expectation of full implementation the next year (i.e., now). While we were able to use the Transfer Model Curriculum (TMC) process to expedite the curricular element of implementation, the more important element is still in flux: what does this mean for students? How is this going to play out? Stephanie Dumont’s article explores what this could look like and what we hope will happen. Elizabeth Atondo points out what is needed to really make this all that it can be: universal acceptance of TMC-aligned degrees with degree completion meaning more than just “the CSU will get you out in 60,” but rather “you’re done with all lower division work.” Community colleges are trying to decide what degrees to develop and may be forced to make judgments with incomplete information; the process of individual CSUs making determinations of “similar” is proceeding at a pace that is inconsistent with the hard and fast deadline that the community colleges have had to meet. We can merely hope that the final outcome is worth the wait. David Morse addresses the importance of a community college degree with integrity—a topic worth consideration not only in light of 1440, but in a world where “completion” is valued above all else. Let’s make sure that we are seeking to see something of worth completed. And, finally, we offer an explanation of what is probably the most highly politicized aspect of this whole process—the decision by the CSU’s Board of Trustees to permit waivers of the CSU’s American History and Institutions (AI) requirement. The CSU Senate Chair, Jim Postma, explains what transpired and puts the Board’s decision in context. We have had many queries from our own faculty regarding this topic as CSU faculty sought support from CCC faculty in their efforts to prevent the Board’s action. I hope the article addresses any remaining concerns and confusion.
While we can’t prevent aspects of what we do from being legislated, we can act as agents of change who strive to direct implementation efforts in the manner that best serves our students and maintains the quality of our courses, programs, and degrees.