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Academic Senate Newsletter

Thursday April 9, 2009


There is no new budget information at this time, so I turn to our number two preoccupation, accreditation. One of our longstanding complaints about the Accrediting Commission has been the ambiguity and inconsistency of some of its guidance on the standards. Well, the good news is that the Commission has been quite definitive for a change. The bad news is that their position is contrary to the thinking of the Academic Senate.

I am referring in specific to the issue of whether or not student learning outcomes (SLOs) need to be included in the course outline of record and class syllabi. The Academic Senate has interpreted from the beginning, with no firm disagreement from the Commission, that the decision on these issues rests with the individual colleges and what works best for them. However, recommendations from visiting teams have been inconsistent regarding these issues, and the Commission has been requested to clarify these issues. In the Commission’s March 2009 newsletter, the Commission has stated firmly that SLOs must be on both the course outline of record and each class syllabus.

Needless to say, the Academic Senate is not at all happy with this interpretation. Furthermore, this interpretation now exists separately from the Standards themselves, which means that groups that interact with the Standards in future years may easily overlook this interpretation, possibly to their peril. Your Executive Committee will begin discussions of how to respond to this interpretation at its next meeting, and your input is always welcome and valued.

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Recommendations from the Assessment Action Planning Group

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Following on the work of the Consultation Council Task Force on Assessment for Placement, a Strategic Plan Assessment Action Planning Group (APG) was convened to continue the exploration of assessment-related issues. The APG has focused on two issues in particular, whether to require underprepared students to take precollegiate coursework beginning in their first term and how to amend the “fifty percent law” to better serve students.

While there is significant literature to support the first proposal and consensus from the members of the APG that such a requirement would strongly support student success, the difficulty in such a requirement rests in defining which groups would be subject to the requirement and what the repercussions of violating such a requirement would be. As an alternative, the group turned to pre-requisites as a means of providing the incentive to enroll in precollegiate coursework.

With respect to the “fifty percent law,” there have been a lot of discussions of possible changes, but there is a dearth of data to inform what those changes should be. Before the APG feels able to make a concrete recommendation, it needs better data. The APG has also come up with an alternative to tinkering with the percentage itself, a “neutrality” proposal.

Here then, are the proposed recommendations from the APG.

1. Change Title 5 to only require content review (Model District Policy on Pre-Requisites) for validation of a pre-requisite.

2. Support for statewide pre-requisites for specific courses to be phased in over time. A significant question is what things need to be considered in the development of any statewide proposal.

3. Support ongoing system efforts to increase matriculation funding. Promote a desirable counselor: student ratio (but not require).

4. Investigate what a reasonable percentage might be should counselors and librarians be included with "classroom faculty" for purposes of calculating 50% law compliance, with the possibility of using AB1157 as a vehicle for implementing such a change.

5. Investigate the effect of removing the "non-classroom" loads of counselors and librarians from both the numerator and denominator in 50% Law calculations, which would then inform whether or not this might be brought forward as a consensus proposal

Two of the resolutions at session address the issue of prerequisites, and the work of the APG will be discussed at a breakout on Friday. Constituency groups across the system are discussing these proposed recommendations throughout the month of April.

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Grant Opportunities

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Given the difficult fiscal times that all of our colleges face, I thought I would pass along two federal grant opportunities that your colleges may want to take advantage of. The first is a grant to strengthen and improve undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages through the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Program. Applications are due April 30, 2009. Awards range from $50,000 to $140,000 depending on whether the application is from a single institution or a consortium. The second grant is offered through the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP), which is designed to effect long-range improvement in science and engineering education at predominantly minority institutions and to increase the flow of underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly minority women, into scientific and technological careers. Applications are due May 1, 2009. Awards range from $35,000-$300,000 depending on whether the proposal is for a single institution or a cooperative project. More information...

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Exciting News

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It is wonderful to be able to include some good news in this update. On April 1, 2009, President Obama announced the nomination of Martha Kanter, Chancellor of the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, as Under Secretary of Education. The position requires Senate confirmation. It has been my pleasure to work with Chancellor Kanter for many years as a part of my service on the Executive Committee, and the California Community Colleges would gain an incredible federal connection (and advocate) if her appointment is confirmed.

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In Closing

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Your Executive Committee is busy with final preparations for the breakouts for next week’s plenary session, and as sign of the robust health of the Academic Senate, we have a large number of people who have signaled their intention to run for the Executive Committee. It promises to be an informative, entertaining, and suspenseful meeting. I look forward to seeing you there.

Mark Wade Lieu
President, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges

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