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Executive Director

Question: What is the legal or official requirement regarding the review cycle for curriculum? My college reviews all courses on a six year cycle, but I am told that other colleges do their reviews more frequently.

Answer: Neither Title 5 nor Education Code specify an exact review cycle for all courses. The third edition of the Program and Course Approval Handbook (PCAH) states, “Colleges are required to periodically review curriculum in a process called ‘program review’ during which the faculty and administrators review the program requirements and course content in consultation with advisory groups” (page 3). The PCAH continues to say, “At present there is no standard model(s) officially recommended for conducting program review in the California Community Colleges system. There is an imperative, however, that every college must conduct an effective review of its instructional programs on a regular basis” (page 19). However, several separate requirements from Title 5, the accreditation standards, and other sources help to establish the most reasonable periodic course review cycle.

Title 5 §55003 states that “at least once each six years all prerequisites and corequisites established by the district shall be reviewed, except that prerequisites and corequisites for vocational courses or programs shall be reviewed every two years.” This statement applies only to the review of prerequisites, not to the entire course or course outline. However, because prerequisite review is most likely to be a feature of the overall review of the course, many colleges apply this six-year maximum review rule not only to prerequisites but also to course review in general.

Standard IIA.2(e) of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges states, “The institution evaluates all courses and programs through an on-going systematic review of their relevance, appropriateness, achievement of learning outcomes, currency, and future needs and plans.” This language does not specify a length for the on-going review cycle. However, because the cycle for the overall accreditation process is six years, and one can safely assume that a college that had not reviewed its curriculum between accreditation processes would not be seen as compliant, a curriculum review cycle of six years or less would be necessary to meet Accreditation Standard IIA.2(e).

The review cycle can also impact the transferability and articulation of courses. The University of California’s “Policy on Course Transferability, Directions for Revising the UC Transferable Course Agreements and Special Regulations for Courses in Specific Subject Areas” states that for UC transferable course agreements, “Outlines should be current (not more than seven years old).” The CSU system also demands currency of course outlines in order to articulate the courses.

Finally, the C-ID (Course Identification Numbering System) requires that course outlines submitted for C-ID designation be no more than five years old. Outlines that have not been reviewed within five years therefore cannot be assigned a C-ID designator.

For all of these reasons, even though Education Code and Title 5 do not specify a specific length for the overall curriculum review cycle, a periodic review process of not more than six years and preferably of five years seems most advisable. The final determination of the curriculum review cycle is a local decision made primarily by the Curriculum Committee, but relevant administrators and curriculum support staff should also be consulted in making this decision.

Note: Career technical education programs have additional requirements. Watch for more information in a future Rostrum article.