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Understanding California’s AB 705 and the Value of Data Analytics

The EvoLLLution | Understanding California’s AB 705 and the Value of Data Analytics
Data-driven decision making is critical for postsecondary institutions in the modern era, especially given the shifting regulatory environment and the fast-changing needs of learners.

Remediation has been one of the biggest hindrances to success for many California community college students. Until recently, the results from one placement test essentially determined a student’s destiny: Either they transferred directly into college-level English and math courses, or they were required to take supplementary classes to master the basic skills. If a student was placed in a remedial course, their educational path was set back since they were required to complete remediation before they could start earning credit toward their degree.

While the process of completing standardized placement tests was intended to set students up for success, data has shown that remedial courses actually reduce the likelihood that students will succeed. The Campaign for College Opportunity found that only 40 percent of students placed in remedial courses go on to achieve their educational goals, like earning a degree or certificate or transferring to a four-year school, within six years.

Consequently, in an attempt to improve success outcomes, the introduction of Assembly Bill 705 will drastically alter the process for placing new students in transfer-level courses.

The Demands of AB 705

California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 705 on October 13, 2017, and all California community colleges are required to be in compliance by the fall of 2019. AB 705 aims to maximize the likelihood of students completing their English and math transfer-level coursework within a year by reforming the remedial education process and focusing on a broader range of student achievements.

Since standardized tests have proven to be unsuccessful, AB 705 requires California community colleges to use students’ high school performance as the determining factor for accurate course placement. This includes high school courses, grades and GPAs.

This change in process will allow more students to enter college-level courses, unless their high school performance shows that they would be unlikely to succeed. In that case, the student will follow a co-requisite model instead of being placed in remediation. The co-requisite will help underprepared students enroll directly into a college-level course along with an additional one-unit class that provides extra guidance and support to give them the best chance for success.

Ultimately, AB 705 pushes community colleges to maximize the probability that a student will enter and thrive in college-level English and math courses. This change in expectations also means that institutions will need to restructure their curriculum and placement processes to comply.

Developing New Placement Criteria

Colleges must abide by the standards set by AB 705, but they have the freedom to establish their own placement criteria. Every institution is unique, so research that is specific to a college’s student body is necessary to create the appropriate placement rules. In other words, what might work for a community college in San Francisco may not be suitable for one in Irvine.

Since there won’t be as many remedial courses needed, institutions will need to determine if they can support the additional college-level courses required by the new model. Colleges will also need to restructure their curriculum to ensure it can support the necessary co-requisites and determine if they have the appropriate number of faculty members available.

The Value of Data Analytics

The best way for colleges to handle this influx of decision making is with data. With the opportunity to develop new curriculum and college-level course criteria, the value of information is more important than ever before. Fortunately, most colleges in the US already collect an abundance of data on their students, which can provide valuable insight to support the research and planning processes. Technology has also made it easy to collect information on absolutely everything, from student demographics and course success rates to achievement gaps and enrollment trends.

Institutional data has the power to reveal trends that can help colleges determine the likelihood that a student will succeed in a certain course, which will be vital when it comes to determining placement in transfer-level courses. Under AB 705, colleges will also be required to prove the value of their co-requisite classes, which can be addressed by tracking student success over time. Data can also be used to optimize the use of resources, like classrooms and faculty members, which will be crucial for curriculum planning.

Higher education has recognized the advantages of data-driven decision making, but many institutions lack the infrastructure for it. Collecting, analyzing and interpreting data is nearly impossible without a modern, methodical process. Institutional research departments can only handle so much, which is why many tech tools and data analytics programs are aiming to make this process seamless for administrators, faculty members and other college personnel.

No matter how institutions go about gathering and assessing their data, it’s more important than ever before to actually put that data to use. The insights that are revealed through data analytics can prove extremely valuable, especially when student outcomes are on the line.

The hope for AB 705 is that California can shrink its achievement gaps and increase successful student outcomes by reducing the time it takes to complete a degree. All California community colleges must comply with AB 705 by the fall of 2019 and, depending on their success, other states may soon follow in their footsteps.

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The Campaign for College Opportunity. Assembly Bill 705 (Irwin): FACT SHEET. Accessed at