Defining Basic Skills: It's Harder Than You Think!

In Spring 2005, we asked those present at a plenary session breakout to give the definitions they have of various terms: basic skills, remedial, developmental, pre-collegiate, college level, and transfer. It was amazing the differences there were. We also presented the definitions used by UC and CSU. We then thought that we would take the responses back, look them over, and arrive at some consensus. How nave we were! That difficulty became the focus of our presentation at this fall plenary session.

Life, Death, and Reincarnation in the Legislative World

Our Fall Plenary Session came after the end of the 2003-04 session of the California Legislature; thus we could review the disposition of legislation considered by the State Assembly and Senate. It is interesting to note the life of a bill: it can die in committee and never see a vote on the floor; it can be approved by the Legislature and then vetoed by the Governor; or it can be approved by the Legislature and then signed into law by the Governor. We tracked the major disposition of bills dealing with community college issues.

Housekeeping: Records and Files

All of us probably have overflowing filing cabinets in our own offices, which makes it even more difficult to deal with the overflowing filing cabinets and shelves dedicated to the records and files of your local senate. Some senates have invested in scanning equipment to digitize all documents to solve the storage problem, but not all senates have the time, money or inclination for such a project. The Academic Senate has received several requests for guidance in how to determine what is necessary to keep and what can be thrown away.

Credit Where Credit is Due: Incongruities in the Value of Lab and Lecture

What constitutes learning and credit in higher education? In most institutions of higher education, we award units for packets of time dedicated to successful learning. Attend a course for three hours of lecture per week; complete the course with a passing grade, and the successful student is awarded three units of value indicating competence and experience in a particular discipline. Unfortunately we have data that describes in no uncertain terms that learning is least effective in lecture conditions.

Occupational Programs. Everybody's Business

If you ask any faculty member, "What is the mission of California Community Colleges?" you will hear: "We provide basic skills, transfer and vocational education." We are all clear that we serve multiple missions and that our students come to us with wide and varied needs and goals. But on a daily basis at our colleges we tend to focus (understandably) on our own students, our own programs and our own departments.

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