New California Community College Assessment Test to Take Effect

On October 8, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 743, which creates a new uniform community college assessment test that will be administrated to every incoming California Community College (CCC) freshman throughout the state. The bill, authored by Assemblymen Marty Block of San Diego, is designed to simplify and consolidate the CCC assessment tests that are designed to place students in appropriate math and English courses based on their scores.

Currently, the 112 community college systems around the state use different assessment tests, making transferring from one CCC to another a bureaucratic nightmare, because one math assessment test taken at SMC which places a student in at a calculus level proficiency doesn't necessarily entitle the student to the same course level class at Antelope Valley Community College in Lancaster or Bakersfield College in Bakersfield.

“It would be voluntary, basically,” says Esau Tovar, the faculty leader for the assessment center here at SMC. “Yes, colleges are under no obligation to use the new test when it is created,” says Tovar. “SMC spends $250,000 every two years on assessment tests; this new test is designed to be cheaper and more efficient, that’s all.”

The bill grants the creators of the new test a half million dollars in state grants, plus a $325,000 grant from the Hewlett and Gates foundation, to prepare the test and set up a website called “eTranscript,” (which is mandated by Assembly bill 1046) which will be an online database where students can take the assessment test and check there scores from the comfort of their own homes.

This provision will reportedly save the CCC system $4-10 per individual transcript, according to Paige Marlatt Dorr, writing for the California Community Colleges Teachedge website on the new assessment tests.

The eTranscript site is set to save the California tax payer hundreds of thousands of dollars in the costs of producing and administrating the assessments tests by cutting down on paper use and paper waste, and by cutting assessment test administrators’ work hours significantly, which comes on top of a $400 million decrease in CCC investments enacted this year in accordance with the state budget.

“A tough question to answer,” says Georgia Lorenz, dean of academic affairs, when asked about the benefits of the new assessment test taking into account the over half million dollar cost of it all.

“How well the new test will place students in our school is yet to be seen,” says Lorenz, “I mean we already have a pretty good assessment system here right now.” Cecelia Frohrib, the Assessment Technician at Lassen Community College in Susanville, a small community in Northern California, disagreed. “It’s a good thing,” she says. “Counselors here at Lassen are very pleased. The new test will be very helpful with streamlining students to other community colleges around the state, out of the state, and to four year institutions.”

“The lack of info on the new test does make us a bit nervous,” says Frohrib. “We haven’t gotten anymore explanation about what the test will look like other than a brief statement put out by Jack Scott, (chancellor of the California Community College system), a little while ago.”

Georgia Lorenz echoed the same sentiment, “We don’t know whether the test will be bought from a private company or whether some sort of committee will come up with the new test or what. Each faculty in each different community college should come to a consensus on what they think the standards of the new test should be. As of right now, I’m not aware of any sort of consensus or any sort of plan.”

When asked whether or not the bill was a good idea, Tovar says, “the aim of the bill is good, but it fails to recognize the fact that colleges meet unique needs of their surrounding communities. Its hard to say whether or not this test will work.”

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