A new bill could cut prerequisite math courses in California. City College professors and tutors are against it

AB 1705 aims to speed up completions, but opposition argues it would cause more harm than good
Engineering majors Ady Gonzales, lower left, Michaela Lule Noemi, top left, and Isac Henriques Luz, right, study together in the math center after classes Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Photo by Irie Caraballo/City Times Media
Engineering majors Ady Gonzales, lower left, Michaela Lule Noemi, top left, and Isac Henriques Luz, right, study together in the math center after classes Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Photo by Irie Caraballo/City Times Media

After 10 years between college math classes, Emily Kuzaman figured she could ease her way back into the subject with an intermediate algebra class.

But the Arizona transplant soon learned the course wasn’t offered at San Diego City College.

Her best option, counselors told her, was College Algebra X, an extended form of college algebra for students who need extra help.

“It’s still the same class,” Kuzaman, 29, said. “It’s just you are taking it twice as long as everyone else. I was definitely very frustrated.”

A new assembly bill will eliminate all community college remedial courses in math and English, including the intermediate algebra course Kuzaman had hoped to take.

AB 1705 aims to produce more timely completions of transfer-level math and English courses by cutting prerequisites that are often not transferable to 4-year universities.

It builds on an existing bill that eliminated math and English placement tests for students entering community college in 2019.

But faculty and tutors at City College argue it is already causing more harm than good.

Math Center Coordinator Becky Whelock described the bill as insidious, adding it feels like “the dark side is taking over.”  

“We’re getting a lot of students who are not prepared for these transfer-level classes because they haven’t taken the classes that were designed to prepare them for (those),” Whelock said, referring to the prerequisite courses students often enroll in before classes such as calculus and algebra.

Whelock said not even the California State Universities or the University of California campuses knew these changes were coming.

“I think the people who are pushing this legislation see community college as just as a junior college,” Whelock said, “but that’s not what we do at City College. We have all sorts of different programs and all sorts of people from our community.” 

Exactly when the classes will be completely disappearing is still up in the air. But the bill has already sparked conversation among students and educators at City College, many of whom worry about its potential impact on the community.

“There’s so much trauma in math,” Whelock said, “we don’t need to add to that.”

Added tutor Chris Patino, commenting on X class option: “What (students) really need is to learn those basic skills again.”

The Math Center at City College is one resource students can use in response to these changes. The center offers weekly workshops as well as numerous other resources to help students with their math-related needs. 

Every year it also hosts a four-day winter and summer “mathletics” program where students can learn all the basics of math such as fractions and rounding.

The legislation has left many wondering what will come. Professor Burak Cebecioglu, a math teacher at City College, is teaching trigonometry, one of the many classes being cut. 

“Hell is coming,” Cebeciolglu said.

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