Placement of Dual Enrolled High School Students Under AB 705

Santiago Canyon College

Permitting high school students to take college courses while they are still enrolled in high school is nothing new. In the past, these students would go through a college’s established assessment and placement method, which usually included a placement test. With the passage of Assembly Bill 705 (Irwin, 2017), colleges no longer have access to placement tests for mathematics and English and have to develop new placement procedures based on high school performance data such as overall GPA, courses taken, and specific course grades. These newly adopted placement models may apply to some dual enrollment students, but for other high school students seeking to take mathematics or English courses, the new processes may not be appropriate.

On April 18, 2019, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office released memo AA 19-21 to provide colleges with guidance regarding how to place current high school students into English and mathematics courses while complying with the requirements of AB 705, which are outlined in the revised §55522 of Title 5 that was adopted by the Board of Governors in March 2019. The memo breaks dual enrollment students into three different groups: special admits, College and Career Access Pathways students, and students enrolled in a middle college high school. Students in each of these groups are eligible to take mathematics or English courses, but the placement models for the groups may be different.

Education Code 48800(a) gives K-12 districts the ability to determine whether a high school student is eligible for “advanced scholastic or vocational work.” Eligible students are able to apply to community colleges as special admits, but they are not guaranteed admission into a college or access to any specific courses. On April 24, 2015, the Chancellor’s Office released an FAQ document related to changes to legal advisory 05-01 that defined advanced scholastic and vocational work as degree applicable courses. Therefore, special admit students are only permitted to enroll in degree applicable math and English courses, and the placement model that each college has adopted using high school data should be applied to these students as well. Many of these students are seeking access to advanced courses that are not offered at their high schools, like calculus, so their placements may need to be based on more than high school GPA and could include criteria such as highest course completed.

AB 288 (Holden, 2015) created a new type of dual enrollment student group, known as College and Career Advancement Program (CCAP) students. Some CCAP students could be in the same category as a special admit, an advanced student that is seeking to complete an educational pathway that requires an advanced course in mathematics or English, but not every CCAP student will fall into this category. Education Code §76004(n) states,

The CCAP partnership agreement shall certify that any remedial course taught by community college faculty at a partnering high school campus shall be offered only to high school students who do not meet their grade level standard in math, English, or both on an interim assessment in grade 10 or 11, as determined by the partnering school district, and shall involve a collaborative effort between high school and community college faculty to deliver an innovative remediation course as an intervention in the student’s junior or senior year to ensure the student is prepared for college-level work upon graduation.

Unlike special admit students, CCAP students might be below grade level and need to access basic skills courses to achieve grade level and be prepared to graduate from high school on time. At first glance, this section of Education Code might appear to conflict with the changes implemented by AB 705, but AB 705 is about the placement of college students, and CCAP students are high school students that are taking college courses. If a CCAP student is placed into a basic skills mathematics or English course, that placement is being done by the high school, not the college. The college is simply allowing students to enroll in these classes to help students graduate from high school on time. If placement models such as the default rules published by the Chancellor’s Office [1] were applied to these students, the results could be devastating. This group of students is already struggling to finish high school, and placing them into transfer-level mathematics or English courses would likely make their situations worse. Instead of supporting the high schools and helping more students graduate from high school on time, such placements could lead to more students dropping out of high school when they become overwhelmed by transfer-level coursework.

The final group of high school students taking college courses includes students enrolled in middle college high schools. Students enrolled in a middle college are taking high school courses and college courses at the same time, with many students completing the requirements for an associate degree while completing their high school diplomas. Students that have completed the eleventh grade would automatically be placed into degree applicable math and English courses using the college’s approved placement model. If a student has only completed the ninth or tenth grade, the college would need to evaluate the student’s transcript to determine if he or she is eligible for degree applicable courses in math or English. In many cases, middle college students will fall into the same category as special admits, and the college’s default placement model will apply. When AB 705 was passed, it was intended to transform placement and curricular structures to increase the number of students completing degree applicable mathematics and English courses within one year. As the new placement models for college students are developed and revised, colleges must remember that high school students are also taking these courses.

While AB 705 was not created for high school students, the restrictions on what placement tools may be used directly impact high school students seeking to take math or English courses. As colleges continue to implement AB 705, they must not create placement models that undermine the importance of high school courses or that could negatively impact high school students and discourage them from pursuing their educational goals. Additionally, colleges will want to collect data about the performance of high school students that compares the performance of special admits, CCAP, and middle college students to determine whether all high school students would benefit from the same placement model or whether different models need to be developed. The mandated implementation of AB 705 in fall of 2019 is upon us, and every college will have established curriculum and placement that complies with the bill’s requirements, but the effort to ensure that the new placement models are fair and beneficial to students has just begun. Faculty will have to work together to collect and analyze data in order to determine what is effective, what is not, and how colleges can continue to meet the needs of all students.

[1] The memo regarding the default placement guidelines can be found at….