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Submitted By: Chrissy Gascon, Rancho Santiago Adult Education Consortium

College faculty collaborate to remove barrier to credit math

  • Type of Practice: Articulation Pathways
  • Targeted Population: Adult Secondary Education Students, Associate Degree Students, High School Diploma Students
  • Program Area(s): Adult Basic & Secondary Education
  • Consortia Involved:
    Rancho Santiago Adult Education Consortium: Orange Unified School District, Rancho Santiago Community College District, Santa Ana Unified School District

The Challenge

Historically, adult education students pursuing a high school diploma have had difficulty making a smooth transition into credit-bearing college math courses. Math placement testing can be stressful and is not always an accurate indication of a student’s true skill level. Frequently, students test into a course two or three levels below their skill level and have no way of correcting the situation, as many of them are uncomfortable asking for help and do not have the confidence to inquire about their placement. This can result in students spending too much time on prerequisite courses or, eventually, dropping out of college. Because of these statistics, the Rancho Santiago Adult Education Consortium saw the need for a new articulated pathway to create a seamless transition for Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education students taking noncredit math courses who wanted to go on to Santa Ana College to enroll in credit-bearing math courses.

The Solution

To address the challenge, faculty worked together to eliminate the need for the math placement test. Faculty from Santa Ana College, which offers math courses for college credit, and the Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education, which offers high school math courses to adult education students, met and collaborated on the best ways to meet their students' needs. The faculty decided upon an articulation agreement – they agreed upon the course level the adult learners would have to pass in order to be able to transition into college math without having to take the placement test – to shorten the pathway and create a seamless transition from noncredit to credit math courses.

The department chairs, along with members of their respective departments, met and discussed their current courses. High school Algebra 1B was chosen to articulate with Math 83 (the Liberal Arts Pathway) or Math 84 (the STEM Pathway), meaning that once students successfully completed Algebra 1B offered through the School of Continuing Education, they could enroll in the college math course without having to take a placement test. The course outlines of record were discussed in terms of minimum requirements for successful transition, as well as using the credit Math N-48 final exam as a course assessment.

Faculty worked together to revise the high school Algebra 1B course curriculum to meet the requirements of the articulation agreement, with the following guidelines agreed upon:

1) Target placement for noncredit students would be into Math 83 or 84
2) The high school minimum requirement would become Algebra 1A
3) A revised Algebra 1B course would act as a transition course into Math 83 or 84 with the following stipulations:
a. Student must receive a 70 percent or higher in the class
b. Student must pass a version of the credit N-48 final exam with a 70 percent or higher
4) The new Algebra 1B course would be included in the Santa Ana College course catalog as an optional prerequisite for Math 83 and 84, with no placement test required.


The collaborative effort to articulate adult school math to college credit-bearing math set the foundation for using this approach with other subjects. Santa Ana College faculty developed an articulation agreement in English and articulation agreements were put in place for English and Math at Santiago Canyon College, as well. Development of the original articulation agreement took about a year, with the agreement taking effect in spring 2017.

The Data

The consortium is collecting data from the first cohort of students who took courses that are a part of the agreement. In the first semester of the initial offering of the articulated Algebra 1B course, five students completed the course. These five students earned a final grade of 70 percent or higher in the class, making them eligible to articulate into college Math 83 or 84 at Santa Ana College when they complete their adult school studies and transition to college. To increase the number of students eligible for this streamlined pathway and better prepare them for college math, the Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education has improved the noncredit math pathway to include Algebra 1B in the high school diploma requirement. The consortium also will track the number of Algebra 1B completers who successfully make the transition into Math 83 or 84 at the college, as well as the number of Algebra 1B completers who earn a credit certificate or an associate degree.

Supporting Information

Santa Ana College Math Course Sequences Chart

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