Read about Reading

September
2009
Barbara Illowsky, De Anza College

In the past several years, the body of the Academic Senate passed two similar resolutions on the topic of Reading Competency. This past year, a small group of reading faculty (Dianne McKay of Mission College, Anne Argyriou of De Anza College, and Tim Brown of Riverside Community College) and I developed a plan to complete those resolutions. This article describes the work done.

Background information:

Resolution 9.08, Spring 2006: Reading Competency Requirement
Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges research current practices and the need for reading competency systemwide to develop a position paper on this topic.

Resolution 13.06, Spring 2005: Reading Competency Requirements
Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommend that reading competency be required of all community college graduates, that we examine the inconsistencies associated with reading requirements for graduation, and that we take a position to promote reading as essential to all forms of student success; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges provide a phase in period of two to three years to allow for research on the impact of a reading competency requirement on students with diagnosed/documented reading disabilities.

The first interesting item we discovered is that a reading competency requirement already exists, per Title 5 of the California Education Code. Many faculty statewide, including curriculum committee chairs, were unaware of following regulation:

Title 5: Education
Division 6. California Community Colleges
Chapter 6. Curriculum And Instruction Subchapter 1. Programs, Courses And Classes
Article 6. The Associate Degree

55063. Minimum Requirements for the Associate Degree

"The governing board of a community college district shall confer the associate degree upon a student who has demonstrated competence in reading, in written expression, and in mathematics, ."

Once we learned that reading competency was already a statewide graduation requirement, that piece of information made parts of each of the resolutions moot. We then decided to "research current practices" and to "examine the inconsistencies associated with reading requirements for graduation." At the Fall 2008 Plenary, we held a breakout session with the attendees helping to develop the survey that would be sent out to all California community colleges. Out of the 110 colleges, 89 colleges responded. At the Spring 2009 Plenary breakout session on Reading, we presented survey results, discussed the implications of them, and developed our "next steps" plan.

The first surprise we had was that only 83% of the colleges self-reported that they are complying with current Title 5 graduation requirements by having either an explicit or implicit reading competency graduation requirement. Maybe this result should not have been a surprise. Maybe faculty and administrators are unaware of the Title 5 language. In fact, if academic senate presidents and delegates were aware of the requirement, then the above two resolutions would not have passed. The body would have brought up that reading competency already exists. Hopefully, this article serves to get the word out, so that the remaining colleges will develop and implement their reading competency graduation requirements.

Another point of interest relates to the larger discussion the Academic Senate has been having about instituting reading, writing, and/or mathematics courses as prerequisites for transfer and career courses. Survey results (Question 11) show that approximately one-third of the colleges have some form of a reading perquisite for at least some of their transfer courses. Many colleges are currently discussing whether or not to institute prerequisites.

Unrelated to the resolution, but discovered from the survey results (Question 6) is that 72% of the colleges reported having stand-alone reading courses. This discovery suggests that most colleges have determined that reading education subsumed into an English/writing course is not enough. Also, while most stand-alone reading courses are non-degree applicable, a notable number of colleges offer transferrable and even degree applicable reading courses (Question 7). An area for further study may be if there is a growing need for reading skills at the college level, not just at the basic skills level.

Finally, the breakout participants determined that a position paper on reading competency was not needed, since the requirement is already in Title 5. What was needed is this article to get the word out. Please examine your graduation requirements. If you are not complying with Title 5, bring this to the attention of your academic senate president, your curriculum committee chair, and your vice president of instruction. We are now aware -reading IS fundamental!

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.