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Calif. Backs Off Plan To End Remedial College Classes

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Responding to an outpouring of public opposition, the board of trustees for the California State University system has backed off from a proposal to eliminate remedial classes for students by 2001.

Instead, the board has unanimously approved a plan to substantially reduce the number of remedial classes over an 11-year period. The trustees estimate that by 2007, only 10 percent of entering freshmen will need special courses to bring their skills up to the college level.

"The goal is not to eliminate remedial education," said Chancellor Barry Munitz in a statement after the Jan. 24 vote. "The goal is to eliminate the need for remedial education for the next generation."

The chancellor's office estimates that in 1994, about 47 percent of incoming freshmen in the system required remedial work in math, and 41 percent needed remedial English.

The new policy for the 22-campus system, which serves more than 320,000 students sets two intermediate benchmarks before the 2007 deadline: a 10 percent drop in the number of freshmen who need remedial coursework by 2001, and a 50 percent reduction by 2004.

The policy was adopted after two years of research and a series of hearings with students, teachers, administrators, and community members. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1995.)

K-12 Effect Was Feared

Ralph R. Pesqueira, a trustee who chaired the hearings on the issue, said last week that the message came through "loud and clear" at the public hearings: The K-12 system would not be able to change quickly enough to meet the original deadline of 2001.

Participants told him that eliminating remedial courses at such an early date would only worsen a problem that instead needed a long-term, comprehensive solution, he said.

The new policy "will take longer than what we anticipated, but we think it's much more realistic and much more humane," Mr. Pesqueira said.

The trustees also appointed an implementation advisory committee to be chaired by Marvalene Hughes, the president of the university system's Stanislaus campus.

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