Student Success: The Case for Establishing Prerequisites through Content Review

Curriculum Committee

In the 1990s, the Academic Senate collaborated with the Chancellor’s Office and other leadership groups in the state to revise Title 5 regulations, to draft The Model District Policy on Prerequisites, Corequisites, and Advisories on Recommended Preparation (Board of Governors, 1993) and Prerequisites, Corequisites, Advisories, And Limitations On Enrollment (Chancellor’s Office, 1997), and the Academic Senate authored Good Practice for the Implementation of Prerequisites (1997). These documents established a requirement that most prerequisites had to be statistically validated in order for enrollment in a course to be restricted, effectively requiring faculty to justify prerequisites by failing students. As a result of the difficulties created by this requirement, many colleges chose not to apply prerequisities to their courses and instead allowed students to self-diagnose their own levels of preparation. After a decade of policy and practice promoting relatively unhindered student enrollment in course sections throughout the curriculum, faculty have concluded that the consequence of this situation has been a decline in the level of student preparation necessary for success in a limited but crucial range of courses in community colleges. In addition, the quality of instruction is likely to have been negatively impacted as faculty attempted to facilitate the success of students who were not appropriately prepared, lacking the knowledge and/or skills necessary for a reasonable chance of success. For these reasons the faculty have adopted resolutions urging expanded use of content review—a method for establishing prerequisites already promoted in the policy documents of the 1990s. This paper indicates why faculty believe expanded reliance on rigorous content review as a means of validating prerequisites is necessary to improve student success. In addition, the Academic Senate is preparing separate papers on related topics, including (1) multiple measures and (2) transition strategies colleges can use as they revisit and in some cases expand the number of legitimate prerequisites in their curriculum. Changing the process for the establishment of prerequisites is just one of many ongoing efforts to increase student success, a goal of all faculty but one most recently renewed as colleges initiated efforts to improve success in the basic skills curriculum as a component of the Basic Skills Initiative ( in preparation for raising statewide the math and English requirements for the earning of an associate degree.