CFT response to proposal for online only college

Editor’s note: Responding to Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for the development of options for a fully online college, the California Community Colleges on November 13 announced three options and belatedly asked for comment from stakeholder groups.

Option 1 would use an existing campus to create a statewide delivery system with campus faculty and instructional designers creating content. College employer partnerships would be used and new ones developed statewide.

Option 2 would use an existing district to host a consortium of colleges that opt-in, with faculty coming from the participating colleges. The host district would employ or contract with instructional designers as well as develop employer relationships.

Option 3 would create a new community college district that would operate under the Chancellor’s Office. Selected faculty would work with the new district’s instructional designers, and customize student services.
What follows is the response from the CFT Community College Council.

Open letter: CFT rejection of fully online college proposal

November 22, 2017

To: Governor Jerry Brown
Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley
Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges

We are writing in response to your request for feedback regarding your proposed options for a fully online college. We soundly reject all three options and this new initiative in general for the reasons stated below.

The underlying assumption for the proposal — that California needs a new, fully online college — is flawed. We see this initiative as duplicative of what the community college system already provides to our community college students. Through the State Chancellor’s Office Online Education Initiative, students from anywhere in California can currently take classes at any California community college. This current program is already 100 percent online, including counseling and tutorial services.

The new initiative will hurt students. The students this initiative is purported to help are typically the demographic of students who perform worst in online courses. Funding a “new” initiative based on helping a student demographic which is least likely to succeed makes no sense from either a pedagogical or policy viewpoint, and runs counter to the important student equity work currently underway.

In addition, it appears this initiative is going in the direction of “correspondence courses” from decades ago: Use formulaic lesson plans created by private instructional designers and then “test” the students as they progress to grant access to the next module. Teaching, not testing, must remain the central mission of our community college system.

It also appears that this new “online college” would fall outside of accreditation, and perhaps even outside of current collective bargaining statutes. What credibility would such a college, degree or certificate have? Again, it seems as though this proposal is more of a mechanism to enrich private investors, or at best wishful thinking that quality education can be done online on the cheap, rather than about actually meaningfully educating our students.

The process that led to this problematic proposal lacked stakeholder participation and transparency. The workgroup formed to develop the options for carrying out this proposal lacked representation from a broad cross section of stakeholders. All participants were handpicked by the chancellor rather than selected by the various stakeholder organizations as has been customary. Furthermore, based on our discussions with some members of this workgroup, we understand that the workgroup’s recommendations were not even brought forward, but were replaced by the recommendations of the out-of-state consultants who are driving this project.

For the above reasons, we soundly reject the governor’s proposal for a fully online college. It is noteworthy that both the UC and CSU systems have also independently reached this same conclusion.

If the governor is truly interested in increasing the success rate of our community college students, then he should include additional funding in his next budget for community colleges earmarked to allow the system to hire more full-time faculty and classified staff, as there is ample documented evidence that doing so would increase both the retention and success rates of our students.


Jim Mahler, President
Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers

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What's up with ACCJC?

 CC Presidents Resize Students were active in fight for fair accreditation

On August 7, 2017, CFT and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which oversees accreditation of community colleges in California, settled a four-year lawsuit out of court. Following on the heels of the ACCJC reaccrediting City College of San Francisco (CCSF) for seven years last January, this brings to a close—with a happy ending— the sorry saga of the ACCJC’s illegal attempt to close CCSF, and the fight led by the CFT and AFT Local 2121 to prevent that from happening.

Equally important, the court settlement puts in place reforms to the ACCJC that will ensure a much more fair accreditation regime in California for all community colleges. Below is a summary of, and links to documents from the series of events set in motion by the ACCJC’s attempt to close CCSF.

The ACCJC had been troubled by allegations for years that its methods were arbitrary and punitive. Faculty had charged that the ACCJC, instead of helping to improve the delivery of education, diverted massive amounts of attention, time, taxpayer dollars and resources away from the classroom to "compliance," much of which had little, if anything, to do with education. The Commision's work was also, they said, responsible for deteriorating relations between faculty and administrators fearful of ACCJC sanctions, which occurred at a startlingly higher rate here than in regions overseen by other accreditation agencies.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the inconsistent and disparate ways ACCJC treated colleges is a comparison between City College of San Francisco and Heald College. The agency broke the law in its overzealous attempt to close an excellent school (CCSF), while looking the other way as a lawbreaking school (Heald, operated by Corinthian) preyed on thousands of students. Both instances ended with similar catastropic results: thousands of poor and working class students were denied an education.

In 2013 the CFT challenged the Commission in a formal process known as "third party comment," in which interested parties can file a complaint with the commission and with the U.S. Department if Education. CFT also filed suit seeking an injunction to keep City College of San Francisco open, as did the City Attorny of San Francisco. An injunction was granted on January 2, 2014. The trial ended with a February, 2015 Superior Court Decision affirming that ACCJC broke four laws in denying CCSF due process rights during accreditation review. The Judge ordered ACCJC to offer CCSF another opportunity to respond to its review, this time with transparency.

Since then, reform legislation moved through the state legislature; the state Chancellor's task force report recommended that California find a new accreditator; the board of Governor's adopted the report and committed to having a plan in place by March 2016; and the Department of Education body that oversees ACCJC extended its authority to accredit by just six months, pending resolution of numerous compliance issues. In addition, college presidents formed two working groups, one to reform ACCJC, and the other to explore finding a new accreditor.

Below are links to stories and documents that explain what CFT and its locals—and other organizations, elected officials and interested observers like the State Auditor and the Community College Board of Governors, did to change the ACCJC's behavior, and what the Commission did in response.

"The People vs. ACCJC"—A day-by-day report, October 27-31 and closing arguments, December 9 (2)


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Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Closing Arguments

Day One of “The People vs. ACCJC”, October 27, 2014

San Francisco—After kicking off the day with a spirited early morning demonstration outside the San Francisco Superior Court building, about a hundred City College of San Francisco faculty, students and community supporters moved en masse into the courthouse to attend the opening day of the trial to keep the college open.

They heard Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere deliver the opening argument. She began simply, with “This case is about fairness.” For the next half hour she told Judge Curtis Karnow that the People’s case would prove three things: that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges violated federal regulations and their own policies when it failed to control for conflicts of interest; it failed to create site review teams that were adequately balanced with academics and administrators; and it failed to give due process to City College.

She also noted that the ACCJC acted in violation of California law when it failed to follow the law and its own procedures; that it deprived CCSF of the opportunity to participate in a process of peer review; and that it acted unfairly when it chose to evaluate CCSF while embroiled with the college in a very public debate over the future of the mission of community colleges in California.


CFT files amended lawsuit against Accrediting Commission

Broader in scope than the S.F. City Attorney's

San Francisco, May 19, 2016—Today the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) filed an amended complaint with Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The complaint, delayed for more than two years by ACCJC legal maneuvers, alleges a broad array of violations of federal laws and regulations, as well as California common law fair procedure, by the Commission. The plaintiffs, in addition to CFT, include several local community college faculty unions, a number of individual faculty members and a student.

Find the complaint here.


CC presidents move to reform, then leave ACCJC

CC PresidentsCity College of San Francisco students who testified on the damage ACCJC has caused their school to NACIQI in December.

Statement from CFT president Joshua Pechthalt

CFT applauds growing momentum for accreditor’s ouster

March 17, 2016—“Today California moved another step closer to reforming the broken accreditation system for California’s community colleges. With a more than 90% vote earlier this week to reform the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), while preparing at the same time to move to another accreditor, community college presidents struck a decisive blow to ACCJC’s fading hopes of maintaining the unacceptable status quo.


CFT goes to Washington, tells NACIQI to delist ACCJC


CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, left, testified at the NACIQI meeting in Washington DC, along with Tim Killikelly and Alisa Messer.  They were joined in this photo by AFT president Randi Weingarten, whose staff provided support while the delegation of Californians visited congressional offices seeking the delisting of ACCJC. 

December 17, 2015—Yesterday CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, staff member Jessica Ulstad, former CFT president Marty Hittelman, and faculty, students and trustees from City College of San Francisco spoke before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), which oversees regional accreditors such as the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).


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