AA/AS Degree Requirements


This year the Senate's Curriculum Committee is charged with writing a paper to inform faculty about the issues raised during discussions about AA/AS degree requirements in math and English. For years, the Academic Senate has discussed whether the current levels should be changed. The essential issue is this: are the current allowable levels of math and English appropriate, or should the Academic Senate recommend a change, and if so, what change? Title 5 requirements currently read:

55805.5. Types of Courses Appropriate to the Associate Degree.
(c) English courses not more than one level below the first transfer level composition course, typically known as English 1A. Each student may count only one such course as credit toward the associate degree.
(d) All mathematics courses above and including Elementary Algebra.

As with all Senate committees, the Curriculum Committee's work is driven by resolutions adopted at bi-annual plenary sessions. Eight different resolutions since 2001 have been brought to the Senate's plenary body, asking us to deliberate about the math or English requirements-some in favor of a change, some not. The Committee hopes its paper will clarify the issues and present enough information to prepare the plenary body to make a decision at the 2004 Fall Plenary Session.

The Curriculum Committee is comprised of: Carole Bennett, Santa Rosa; Jane de Leon, American River; Richard Mahon, Riverside; Zwi Reznik, Fresno, and Sandy Warmington, Sacramento City. In the fall, the Committee decided that we needed wider discussion and participation from across the state, so we planned the following: breakouts for the 2003 Fall and 2004 Spring Plenary Sessions, for the 2004 Vocational Leadership Seminar and the next Curriculum Institute, and two special Curriculum by Jane Patton, Curriculum Committee Chair Colloquia which were held in February. In addition, I was invited to share information at a breakout of the bi-annual meeting of CIOs, held in San Francisco.

What We Have Learned So Far
Below is a partial list of what we're learning:
1. Faculty's views are as mixed as ever. Individual faculty within specific disciplines (including math and English) and across disciplines ring in on both sides, although regional and state English and math organizations have taken positions in favor of changing the regulations.

2. Passionate and strong arguments -both pro and con- have been voiced.

3. The literature review suggests that employers want graduates with a higher level of skills.

4. If a change is recommended, there are several options -both for English and math. Other options could include new courses, tailored to specific audiences, at the same level as English 1A and Intermediate algebra.

5. The issues can be divided into an array of complex categories, including a) what's best for students; b) what's best for society; and c) what's best for colleges.

6. Faculty in math and English may need to re-evaluate how they teach as well as what they teach. Faculty across disciplines may need to re-evaluate what math and English skills they expect from students. Are we collectively clear about what students need and how we should meet their needs?

7. If a change is recommended, we collectively need to consider implementation methods and options.

Pros and Cons

Many and varied pro and con arguments have been voiced from faculty. Here is a brief list of some of the over-arching ones.

Pro Arguments

1. The current high school graduation requirements in math are the same as those for an AA/AS degree.

2. Expectations from society and the workplace have changed; we have to change accordingly.

3. We do students a disservice to send them out with such minimal skills; they cannot compete in job placement and advancement or in life with their current skills.

4. Students need more than current elementary algebra, but intermediate algebra may not be the best choice. Other courses with elementary algebra as a pre-requisite have been suggested.

5. Students will rise to the level we set for them.

Con Arguments

1. Students will either take longer to graduate or will drop out if more requirements are added. Fewer students will earn AA/AS degrees.

2. Presently, colleges can decide locally if students need a higher level; a change in the law sets the bar the same (higher) for all colleges.

3. FTEF and resources will have to be moved from other departments to math and English to accommodate the increased demand.

4. Colleges don't have the budgets to provide additional services to students struggling in math and English.

5. The current English 1A course is not written nor taught with vocational students in mind. Their needs are often not met by that course as offered now.

Next steps

Between now and Fall 2004, the Curriculum Committee has a series of tasks.

1. The Committee will share its preliminary findings at the 2004 Spring Plenary session and ask for more input from faculty.

2. The Committee will conduct further research and will continue to gather input from faculty informally and at conferences.

3. The completed paper will be disseminated in the fall.

4. One or more resolutions will be presented at the 2004 Fall Plenary Session. Delegates will vote, as always. The plenary body, not a committee, will decide.

5. If a resolution asking for a change is passed, it will then go to the Board of Governors as a recommendation from the Academic Senate.

How to get involved

If you'd like to participate in these discussions, there are several ways to do so.

1. Attend the plenary sessions in spring and the Curriculum Institute in July. Ensure your college is represented at each to listen and to carry forth your faculty's recommendations or questions.

2. Go to the Academic Senate website (http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/ExecCom/Committees/CurriculumCmte.htm) and read the prior resolutions, relevant Title 5 Code sections, and background materials distributed at the Colloquia.

3. Hold local discussions in your department and the local senate.

4. Send comments to me, jane_patton [at] wvmccd.cc.ca.us

It is not surprising that these discussions have lasted for several years. The issues are important and faculty feelings are passionate. While some resolution will be made in the fall, it is the nature of our profession that the debates about students' needs persist.