Invalid: Are There Unintended Consequences of Existing Requisite Processes?

November
2005
Lynn Welch,

In preparing to revise the 1997 paper Good Practice for the Implementation of Prerequisites, some important questions emerged. What are good practices for the implementation of prerequisites? Do the detailed and specific guidelines provided in the paper about what community colleges need to do to validate requisites lead to the academically sound use of prerequisites? The need for this information screamed "conduct a survey!"-but where to begin? What did we really want to know-and what do we think is happening?

We took a straw poll and the asccc curriculum committee unanimously admitted we are not satisfied or confident in the way requisites are established or validated at our colleges. naturally, this is a biased sample and more data is needed before any solid conclusions can be made. What about you? Are you satisfied and confident with the use of requisites at your college?
It has been more than a decade since legislation requiring validation of requisites was established in law. While the 1997 paper is detailed and specific about what community colleges need to do to validate requisites, there is anecdotal concern that the law that was intended to ensure access may be affecting the rigor of course delivery and success of community college students.
There is also empirical evidence that expectations are vastly different for baccalaureate transferable courses from community college to community college. For example, one community college uses a baccalaureate level english course as an advisory to alert the student as to what level of reading, writing, and thinking is needed for success in an introduction to psychology course. Another requires a high school reading skills level, while still another community college has no requisite or advisory for its introductory psychology course. The courses in question all articulate with CSU and UC in the same manner. are all of these courses really comparable?
Shouldn't we know this? The word around the state is that some schools have not been able to validate requisites-so these schools don't have any math and english prerequisites except where they are required by 4-year institutions in order to ensure articulation. When we discuss implementation of requisites we often do so in whispers for fear we may cross that dangerous line between permitted legal practice and common sense and academic standards.
Are your students coming in to your baccalaureate level class with the basic skills that they need to succeed? If not, are there courses you think would help them be prepared for your course? Have you asked to have these courses listed as the prerequisites to the curriculum you teach? How did that work out for you? Or, does the challenge of validating prerequisites leave your door open to students who are not ready for a college-level course?
The ASCCC curriculum committee needs feedback from the field. Is course rigor being lowered due to the inability to validate prerequisites? Is student success being impacted by the inability to validate prerequisites? Are we serving students in the best ways possible?
This is a short article with a lot of questions and not many answers. Answers we trust you will provide in an upcoming survey from the asccc curriculum committee. Meanwhile, we will present another requisite implementation session for the curriculum Institute in summer 2006 and await the response from the field.

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