A System Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC)


At our colleges, curriculum committees make decisions about curriculum, and their recommendations are presented to the boards of trustees. The primary responsibility and authority for curricular recommendations rest with the faculty. At the state level, however, discussions in the System Office (which is responsible for overseeing and carrying out various Title 5 and Education Code mandates pertaining to curriculum) have been held typically with little or no input from faculty. Fortunately the Chancellor and System Office personnel along with administrators from the colleges and faculty representatives recognized the need for more faculty involvement in the California Community College self study that was conducted in 2004 (commonly referred to as the "Agency Review"). The Review of the System Office for California Community Colleges said the following:

1.5 We recommend developing a plan for the transition of some aspects of curriculum approval to the regional level and some to the local level, including the following components:

Establish a standing Curricular Issues Advisory Committee.

Amend the Education Code and Title 5 to locate stand-alone course approval at the college/district level and to expand the definition of Supplementary Instruction.

Improve system-wide understanding of curricular approval processes.

The role of the Chancellor's Office should evolve from a focus on approval to one of leadership, technical support, and arbitration, when districts and regions need interventions.

In response to this recommendation, the System Office established a committee whose name became the System Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC). the committee in turn developed a recommendation statement dated March 1, 2005, which was approved by Chancellor Drummond. The statement included the following recommendation:

The committee will be made up of:

6 representatives appointed by the State Academic Senate

4 representatives appointed by the Chief Instructional Officers

4 System Office Staff (Vice Chancellor, Dean and 2 Specialists from the Educational Services Division)

SACC is co-chaired by a faculty member and a college vice President of Instruction and has met nearly every month since its inception in 2005.

The committee has made great strides over the last year. One of the greatest successes has been the development of trust and respect among personnel in the System Office and administrators and faculty representatives from the colleges. Committee members have commented that the level of discourse in the meetings and the depth of rapport that has been developed can serve as a model for local "big picture" discussions about curriculum.

While local curriculum committees typically are accorded the primary authority for recommendations about course approval, when it comes time to develop a new program or reduce an existing one, the faculty role is often diminished.

Senates might consider creating a similar umbrella curriculum issues committee at their colleges, where college-wide academic topics not typically addressed by curriculum committees include the appropriate faculty participation.

A major task of SACC during the last year has been to review the processes for course and program approvals and suggest ways to improve them. The Program and Course Approval Handbook (March 2003) is currently being revised with guidance from the committee. The aim is to make the Handbook user-friendly, accessible and searchable online, and to clarify and streamline the approval forms and processes. The committee perused examples of applications for new programs that were sent to the System Office and has proposed changes to the current review processes and criteria. the discussions include the processes for both credit and noncredit curriculum.

Another product of the committee was the development of an action plan regarding stand-alone courses. Presently, standalone courses must be submitted to the System Office for approval. However, for many years, faculty and administrators across the state have argued that local colleges/districts are the more appropriate place to approve such courses, because local colleges know their community and workplace needs. Last year, SACC wrote a White Paper, laying out this position and the System Office developed the language to propose legislation to permit local approval. The bill is AB 1943 (Assemblyman Nava) and at press time the Governor is considering it. (Note that the existing requirements are in place until such time as the bill becomes law and colleges are officially notified of a change). This legislation represents a major outcome (and we hope, a victory) of SACC.

Historically, System Office staff conducted the training activities for local faculty, administrators and staff about statewide curricular processes.

while faculty at meetings such as Academic senate plenary sessions and curriculum institutes and administrators at their conferences have informed their peers about issues and best practices, there has never been a concerted effort for the three entities to coordinate training in the field-until now. SACC has begun plans to provide training, both in-person and via mediated methods. The principles behind the collaboration include a desire 1) to involve all three groups (the System Office, administrators and faculty) in the development and delivery of training, 2) to make training available in multiple modalities and venues, and 3) to reach out to administrators and staff as well as faculty. The committee intends to begin training during the 06-07 academic year with the new guidelines on supplemental Learning Assistance and tutoring which were distributed last June.

The successful deliberations of SACC during the last year have laid a foundation of cooperation between the System Office and faculty and administrators in the field. Because faculty are the curriculum experts, our active participation on this committee exemplifies the spirit of the Education Code and Title 5 and highlights that when faculty perspectives are present in system-wide decisions, everyone benefits.