Community College English in California’s New Era of Access

California’s community colleges began implementing Assembly Bill 705 in fall 2019, making major assessment and placement reforms that moved students away from remedial prerequisites for English and math and into transfer-level courses.

This report examines the progress colleges and students have made in shifting toward transfer-level English courses through fall 2020; it also looks at the impact of the pandemic and the shift to online learning on AB 705’s implementation.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Colleges continued to implement AB 705 in the face of COVID-19. Despite a significant decline in enrollment in fall 2020, access to gateway transfer-level English remained high, continuing the progress made in the previous fall. In fact, the share of students enrolling directly in college composition actually increased slightly (from 95% to 97%), and the share of first-time English students completing these courses only declined slightly (from 61% to 59%).
  • Colleges are still figuring out the best ways to provide corequisite remediation to their students. In the first year of the pandemic, a slightly lower share of students started in college composition along with corequisite support; among those who did, the rate of successful completion declined (from 58% to 53%). Some colleges found it challenging to shift corequisite courses from face-to-face to online settings—indeed, a handful stopped offering corequisites altogether.
  • Colleges must prioritize equitable student success now that nearly all first-time English students are enrolling in transfer-level coursework. While racial/ethnic gaps in access to college composition are mostly closed, completion rates remain significantly lower among Black and Latino students.