California Community Colleges Strategic Plan Assessment Action Planning Group (APG): An Update on the Group’s Recommendations

APG Co-Chair
Chair, Pre-Requisite Task Force

At the Spring 2009 Plenary Session, the Academic Senate endorsed the Assessment APG’s end-of-year report for 2008-2009. Since that time, there has been significant movement on some of the recommendations from the report.

Recommendation: Support statewide project to develop statewide prerequisites for a limited set of general education courses using content review per the Model District Policy on Pre-Requisites, including an evaluation of the impacts.

Richard Mahon, the Chair of the Academic Senate’s Curriculum Committee, is chairing the Pre-Requisite Task Force, which is overseeing this work. We presented on this topic at the 2009 Fall Plenary Session of the Academic Senate. Following Session, Richard convened the task force, comprised of faculty, CIOs, CSSOs, and Chancellor’s Office staff. We had a phone conference in December and then met in-person in January 2010.

Rather than organizing a series of regional pilot projects focused on specific GE areas, the task force reached consensus on moving forward with a change to Title 5 language that would make statistical analysis permissive rather than required for the establishment of English, reading, and mathematics pre-requisites for other courses. Executive Vice-Chancellor Steve Bruckman provided input on what language change would be needed, and he concurred that it did not appear to be a difficult change to write. The name of the task force will be changed since this approach is no longer predicated on “pilot” projects.

Given the wide range of perspectives on moving forward with this change, several events have already happened and others are planned.

  • A discussion with the Chief Student Service Officers (CSSO) Board where the board was supportive and expressed serious concerns about implementation and transition issues.
  • Working with Vice-Chancellor Bruckman and the System Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC)
  • A Discussion with the Chief Instructional Officers (CIO) Board and a presentation at their spring conference.
  • Regular work with the Academic Senate Executive Committee with a general session and two follow-up breakout sessions at the Senate’s spring plenary session.
  • A discussion with the Matriculation Professionals Association (MPA).
  • The task force plans to organize regional colloquia - three/four - to discuss issues and also to build consensus for the change.

Recommendation: Support ongoing system efforts to increase matriculation funding and promote a desirable counselor: student ratio.

The Governor’s initial 2010-2011 budget further cuts EOPS by $10m. The system will advocate for a restoration of cuts to matriculation and other student service categorical areas, but restoration is unlikely given the current deficit.

Recommendation: Investigate what a reasonable percentage might be should counselors and librarians be included with "classroom faculty" for purposes of calculating 50 Percent Law compliance, with the possibility of using Assembly Bill 1157 as a vehicle for implementing such a change.

To encourage debate at its Fall Plenary Session, the Academic Senate proposed three resolutions regarding the 50% law. While there was indeed active debate, there was no clear consensus position, and no action was taken on the three resolutions. We had heard that there was a bill for a 52% law moving forward, but apparently the sponsor withdrew the bill when he discovered that there was not system-wide consensus for such a change. There continues to be a lot of discussion about the 50% law, especially in light of continued budget cuts and strains on local budgets. A new resolution, 6.03, will be reviewed at Area Meetings and Spring Plenary Session that acknowledges that we still haven’t determined what percentage would be consistent with previously adopted resolutions and move counseling and library faculty members onto the “right” side of the 50% law.

Recommendation: Support continued exploration of CCC Assess pilot.

The CCC Assess pilot is moving forward. There have been commitments from both the Hewlett and Gates Foundations of $250,000 each to support the pilot. Vice-Chancellor Perry is now moving forward with the convening of an advisory committee for the project in mid-March.

The goal of CCC Assess is two-fold. First, the project seeks to offer centralized online delivery of assessment testing in mathematics, English, and ESL at a substantial cost-savings to colleges. Participation would be voluntary, but there is no doubt that there is potentially a strong economic incentive for colleges to join in. As part of the pilot, groups of discipline faculty, chosen by the Academic Senate, will be convened to review assessment tests in each of the three content areas to choose the best test with which to pursue a possible statewide contract. Not surprisingly, major test vendors have expressed great interest in participating.

Second, the pilot will explore the establishment of a centralized data warehouse for assessment data, including data from other segments. It is anticipated that these data would be available to colleges for incorporation into course placement decisions.

Recommendation: Support continued CCCAA test-development work.

Even before the APG was originally convened, the California Community College Assessment Association (CCCAA), which comprises assessment coordinators at the colleges, were discussing development of assessment tests better suited to the needs of the California community colleges than are currently available through commercial vendors. With a modest grant from the Chancellor’s Office, the CCCAA embarked on first steps in such a project, focusing on the area of least satisfaction across the state with regards to available assessment testing instruments, English as a Second Language (ESL).

CCCAA completed development of specifications for such a test, including cost estimates, last year. Now it is in the final stages of approval for a contract proposal to begin actual test writing. The final approval is expected this spring, at which time the test-writing team of nine CCC ESL faculty will start working with the test-specifications.

The ambitious timeline is to be able to field test Reading Test items (at three levels: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced) with volunteer colleges in mid-late April. Field testing of Language Structure & Usage items (as well as revised Reading items) is planned for September-October. At the same time, they will also field test writing sample prompts and the scoring rubric developed by the Test-Specifications Workgroup. The hope is that the final refinements will have been completed to permit the creation of at least one, fixed-form version of the tests at all three levels by January 2011. A notable team of psychometric researchers are consulting for the project.

The next phase (which would require a new funding proposal) will be the "piloting" of the tests for use in colleges' placement processes. The fixed-form tests will be available in paper-pencil, computerized, and online formats (non-adaptive). More research and revision will follow in addition to the ongoing development of passages and items that will eventually form a vast enough bank of test items to permit creation of an adaptive test instrument (vs. individual fixed-form tests per level).