Resolving the TBA Dilemma: A Tale of Three Memos

2008-2009 System Advisory Committee on Curriculum Co-Chair

Note: All three memos referenced in this article can be found at spring2009/program.html (just scroll down to the 2nd breakout session, #4). Note that the presentation you will find predates the third memo (AKA follow-up #2).

The 2008-2009 academic year was a lively one with respect to "to be arranged" (TBA) hours. This often-used apportionment mechanism was placed under the microscope as a consequence of one district's abuse-and has resulted in system-wide concern and examination. As is often the case, amongst the chaos that has ensued, some clean-up has been done, reconsiderations have been made, and new questions have emerged. As we face tough budget times and will surely have unfunded FTES, this is a great time to look critically at all curriculum.

If your head was spinning trying to follow the TBA soap opera, that is understandable. In the end, three memos went out from the Chancellor's Office. Yes, three-don't be fooled by how they are identified-there is one original, and two follow-ups-that makes three. If you missed the 3rd (2nd follow-up, dated June 10, 2009), you'll want to get a hold of it as it contains some important information (see below for one place it can be found).

The first TBA memo-"To Be Arranged (TBA) Hours Compliance Advice Legal Advisory 08-02" (October 1, 2008)-abolished TBA as we know it. Instead of TBA hours being hours that a student put in on their own schedule, this document indicated that "When arranging for TBA hour schedules at the start of each term or session, students shall be informed of their schedules or work with the instructor in determining their individual TBA schedules." It went on to also remind us that a qualified instructor was to provide instruction during those TBA hours. And that "zero-unit" options are not permitted-"It is not permissible to approve credit courses with zero units of credit."

The requirement that TBA hours be "scheduled" was viewed almost universally as blasphemous. While requiring that a student put in the required number of hours each week is logical, asking our students to commit to specified times is contrary to common practice, the general expectations of the field (including students), and the implied flexibility of hours designated as "to be arranged". The other reminder that was met with concern was nothing new-the expectation that a qualified instructor be present. It should be kept in mind that apportionment for TBA is apportionment for instruction-instruction delineated in the course outline of record and provided by a qualified instructor. The response from the field to this legal advisory was critical (and loud)-and along came follow-up #1-"To Be Arranged (TBA) Hours Follow Up" (January 26, 2009).

TBA II (Follow-Up #1) proposed instituting Title 5 changes to address issues that arose with Early Childhood Education courses that included TBA hours where children were observed outside of class and with no expectation that a qualified instructor would be present. Such changes have gone though all the hoops and hurdles-and now it is established that:

(c) For the purposes of early childhood education programs in community colleges, "immediate supervision" means student participation in such programs wherein the person to whom the student is required to report for training, counseling, or other pre-scribed activity shares the responsibility for the supervision of the students in student teaching activities with academic personnel of the district. In all such cases the person to whom the student is required to report and who is not an academic district employee shall possess at a minimum a Master Teacher Child Development Permit issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, or the equivalent.

Please see the July 2009 Board of Governors agenda for details ( was a change made to Title 5 58055, "Immediate Supervision." Similar exceptions for other career technical education disciplines already existed.

The issue of "immediate supervision" was very much an issue for foreign language labs. While many colleges staff their foreign language labs with foreign language faculty, there may not always be faculty present for all the languages for which students are receiving instruction. In other words, if a student is doing TBA hours for his or her Japanese course, having a Spanish and Italian faculty present does not suffice. While this second memo suggested that a Title 5 change might be the solution for this, no such change emerged. No one stepped forward to make an argument for a change. But a possible solution was mentioned-make those TBA hours "distance education" (DE). If the TBA hours became DE, they would then be subject to the rules that apply to DE as opposed to those that TBA-removing the requirement for "immediate supervision" and applying the curricular requirements that apply to DE.

This second memo also did some much-needed back-pedaling, lessening the "regularly scheduled" language that had, in effect, turned TBA hours into regularly scheduled hours. Colleges were informed that they must document student hours and hours must be completed as scheduled (i.e., x hours per week). Further guidance with respect to TBA hours was also provided:

Please note that the following conditions must be met:

  1. The official course outline of record must include the number of TBA hours and specific instructional activities/learning outcomes for TBA hours expected of all students enrolled in the course.
  2. The TBA hours must provide instruction that is not homework and the student work completed for TBA must be evaluated. In this regard, do not include within TBA hours unsupervised activities such as attendance at plays and concerts. Apportionment may not be collected for such activities.
  3. The TBA hours/week required for the course must be included in the published catalog and class schedule.
  4. The designated location for the TBA hours must be specified in a way that appropriately informs students.
  5. All students enrolled in a course with TBA hours must be required to fulfill the hours and other conditions for TBA. Make sure that all student participation is documented.
  6. TBA hours may not be claimed for apportionment under the auspices of individual student tutoring. When reviewing courses with TBA, please note that a couple of options might be considered:
  7. For courses across disciplines, it is acceptable to include TBA hours that specify student learning objectives focused on reading, writing, and math skill development that are related to the content area of the course. In this case, the instructor providing immediate supervision and instruction should meet minimum qualifications in reading, writing and/or math. For example, for a history course, it could be desirable to specify learning outcomes focused on research and writing within the history discipline. Students may be assigned to a learning center to meet those objectives where such instruction can be appropriately provided by a faculty member who meets minimum qualifications in writing. In this case, the college should reference "team teaching" as a means of addressing the student outcomes related to writing for TBA hours on the course outline.
  8. If TBA hours are problematic for various reasons including availability of facilities to accommodate the students who need to complete TBA hours or availability of instructors who meet minimum qualifications for the area where TBA hours are scheduled, you might examine the possibility of offering hybrid courses instead of courses with TBA hours. In this way, some of the contact hours could be offered in the classroom and others could be provided online as Distance Education (DE) hours. This type of offering may be subject to the Alternative Attendance Accounting Procedure as provided by Title 5, Section 58003.1 (f ) and 58009. The Distance Education Guidelines (distributed August 18, 2008) provide additional information.

So, what was left for the third memo to cover? More rules/guidance were referenced in prior memos. What was to be implemented in order to ensure that there is no more abuse of TBA?

The "Second 2nd To Be Arranged (TBA) Hours Follow-Up Memorandum" is dated June 10, 2009-so you may have missed it. Here the idea of DE as a "solution" was expanded upon-and a long-needed interpretation with respect to DE-how does one collect apportionment for "hybrid"/"blended" courses that, technically, should be funded using two different mechanisms? As only one apportionment mechanism can be used for a given course, what does one do when two methods are justified-where one component of a course is "regularly scheduled" and the other is DE?

The third TBA memo states that ".it is necessary to use the Alternate Attendance Accounting Procedure described in section 58003.1(f ) and 58009 if the entire course as a whole does not qualify for either the basic Weekly or Daily Census attendance accounting procedures. Since hybrid courses qualify as distance education, they are eligible for this procedure." This makes it clear that the same mechanism used to claim apportionment for DE courses applies to "hybrids"-ending long-existing confusion regarding the how of apportionment for courses with a DE element where the DE element is greater than 0% and less than 51%.

This memo also restated points made previously regarding tracking/documentation, the need for students to complete the required TBA hours each week, immediate supervision, instruction, etc. It also noted that colleges must ".not claim apportionment for TBA hours for students who have documented zero hours as of the census point." and that "...there will be a new audit compliance item that focuses on TBA hour compliance with 2010-11 Contracted District Audit Manual. This item will require auditors, among other matters, to determine if apportionment was claimed for students who document zero TBA hours as of the census point. If a college is out of compliance regarding its claim for TBA apportionment, it would need to adjust its apportionment claim and/or return state apportionment funds and implement a control mechanism to avoid recurrence."

What issues remain? Has it all been solved? New questions are emerging with respect to what current TBA hours can be "converted" to DE. As noted, whatever DE review processes are in place locally necessarily apply-as well as all relevant Title 5 regulations. Most certainly, instruction must be provided-and it must be instruction that truly is DE-not facilitated by campus employees. In other words, if the instruction necessarily requires the physical presence of any human (other than the student, of course) to aid in the learning, it is not DE. While the instruction may necessarily require the use of district facilities, the instruction is provided by a qualified instructor-and he/she need not be present. As existing current TBA hours are considered for DE, all guidelines that apply to DE must be considered.

Again, as we look to the year ahead with some unfunded instruction almost guaranteed, this is a perfect time to re-think instruction and to make any necessary curriculum modifications. Hopefully the TBA saga will result in better curriculum-more thoughtful and instructor-centered approaches to TBA-that better serves our students.