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Santa Rosa Junior College scraps math, English placement tests

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Thousands more Santa Rosa Junior College students now are eligible to take transfer‑level math and English courses as the college adjusts to a state law that eliminates placement testing for those subjects.

Remedial classes still will be offered, but there will be fewer of them, college officials say.

Students now will be placed based on high school coursework, grades and grade-point average. The changes were implemented on Jan. 9 for new students enrolling for the summer and fall semesters, and for current students planning to take math and English after the spring semester.

About 3,000 junior college students were placed in remedial English classes and 4,200 in remedial math classes during the 2017-18 school year, said Michelle Vidaurri, the college’s director of assessment services and student success technologies.

The law, signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017, requires California community colleges to ensure the likelihood newly enrolled students will complete English and math courses that can be transferred to a four-year university.

Gabrielle Cervantes, a Casa Grande High School senior, said she has struggled with math classes and turns to tutors for homework help. The 17-year-old will attend SRJC in the fall, and she plans to sign up for a transfer-level math class.

“I would most likely be in remedial math if I were tested,” said Cervantes, who plans to major in veterinary science.

While Cervantes said she will use tutoring services when she’s taking math in college, she thinks being in a transfer-level math class instead of remedial math will be beneficial to her. It saves time, and she prefers being with her peers.

“I definitely think it could help me. It really just depends on the classroom setting I’m in,” she said.

Vidaurri said the college will have support services for the transition, including peer success coaches, referrals to the writing lab, a math lab, tutoring services and a weeklong workshop over the summer hosted by math and English professors, counselors and staff.

“It was a lot of work for the math and English departments. They had to look at course sequence and redesigning their curriculum,” Vidaurri said.

Research from the Multiple Measures Assessment Project, conducted by RP Group, an education nonprofit committed to increasing the success of the California Community Colleges system, found that students with a grade-point average below 1.90 completed transfer-level math and English courses at over double the rate of students placed in a lower-level course.

“It’s a little counterintuitive from everything we’ve known and done, but the research out there is so compelling that it’s hard to argue with it,” Vidaurri said. “We expect huge gains in equity because most of the achievement gaps start in placement.”

She hopes the changes will be an incentive for students, who may have left the college after English and math courses took too long, to return.

“The research really shows they’re more successful starting at the transfer-level,” Vidaurri said.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @susanmini.

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