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Chaparral 2013-2014: 22.2 Speaking of the Senate

Speaking of The Senate (November 2013)

Speaking of the Senate: Myths, Unknown Facts, and Prognostications for Noncredit ESL

by Paul Mayer

Budget Representative, Academic Senate



Mike Scott, our Academic Senate President, has asked each member of the Senate Executive Committee to write an article on behalf of the Senate in order to help disseminate information about the programs we represent. So, I’ve taken this opportunity to dispel some of the misinformation out there about my division, Noncredit ESL. Much thanks to all my colleagues who helped in putting this quiz together. As always, the first questions are easy and good luck!

Fact or Myth? Noncredit ESL exists only at the Garfield Campus. 

Answer: Myth.

 While the bulk of our courses are offered at Garfield, we have a vibrant and growing presence on the Main Campus, including our College Readiness ESL program and developing Vocational ESL program. We also serve the community by offering courses at many off-site locations including the Professional Development Center, Roosevelt Elementary School, and the La Crescenta United Methodist Church.

Fact or Myth: Noncredit ESL is a large division.

Answer: It depends on what you are measuring.

In terms of number of students, we are often one of the larger divisions, serving approximately 6,000 students per year with a staff of nearly 80 adjunct faculty. If, on the other hand, you are counting the number of full time faculty, we have six, including our much-beleaguered division chair, Alice. The reason for such disparity is because the state’s FON (Full-time Obligation Number) doesn’t apply to noncredit full-time hires. Finally, in terms of actual headcount, both noncredit divisions comprise almost 30% of the district’s headcount when compared to the number of credit students at the census date.

Fact or Myth? Noncredit ESL students are different from credit students.

Answer: Again, it depends.

Noncredit programs are the number one feeder to credit classes compared to high schools and other schools in our community. That said, we also offer classes to the elderly, those who need first language support at the beginning levels, students seeking citizenship, and students who want to pursue a career or want to expand their job skills. In some cases, noncredit students are simultaneously enrolled in credit, and it’s not uncommon for credit students to choose to “go back” into noncredit.

Fact or Myth? Noncredit programs lose money for the college.

Answer: Myth.

Unlike credit classes, which are funded by the number of seats filled on the census date, noncredit is measured by a stricter formula. Our program gets funded by the number of hours of seat-time a class accrues throughout the entire semester. While it is not uncommon to retain classes of 40+ students until the last day of the semester, an instructor’s class whose numbers are waning can be cancelled at any time during the semester at the discretion of the administrator and division chair. Though our funding apportionment is less per student, because we have so much average daily seat time, the amount of money the program earns brings profit to the institution. We also bring in an additional one million dollars to 01 funding per year because with its certificate programs the Garfield campus has been recognized by the state as center.

There are also other intangible or less quantifiable benefits. For example our Noncredit ESL Latino population has increased from 17.5% to 24% since 2010, and we credit this increase partially to our implementation of our “Spanish Language Support” ESL program. This program, offered off-site in the evening, provides outreach, access, and success to Glendale’s Spanish-speaking population, many of whom are parents and relatives of our past, present, and future credit GCC students. It serves as a pathway for noncredit ESL students towards transition into noncredit or credit certificate programs, or credit degree or transfer programs, which helps support and sustain the eligibility criteria for GCC’s Title 5 funding.

Fact or Myth? Noncredit ESL does not focus on the skills credit ESL students need.

Answer: It depends on the pathway of the student.

After achieving a good foundation in English from studying in our lower level classes (or if they test in a high enough level), our students are given the choice of three pathways: 1) CRESL, where they learn to prepare for Credit ESL classes and the Credit ESL placement test; 2) Vocational ESL, where they learn how to pursue a career, or improve on-the-job English skills; or 3) they can continue to develop their fluency in communicating in written and spoken English at the intermediate and advanced levels. The following link helps illustrate how well our CRESL students do when offered an accelerated curriculum: 

Another intangible benefit of having our CRESL program is that it attracts students who have already been in classes in colleges or universities in their native countries and simply would rather not wait one year and one day to start taking academically demanding course work. We figure that if we offer an accelerated program that matches what they are accustomed to, they will seek our program out and later matriculate into our credit programs as Julia Baker did, who started in Noncredit ESL and ended up winning the 2005 Academic Senate Scholarship for having the highest grade point average (GPA) at the college.

Fact or Myth? Our students do not learn how to integrate.

Answer: Myth.

In addition to learning English, our student are taught Life Skills with a variety of materials and methods, including those found in our own English Literacy and Civics (EL Civics) packets, which focus on themes such as how to rent an apartment, and on whether to use 911 or other community agencies when reporting a serious situation.

Fact or Myth? Noncredit ESL Instructors do not do any grading or planning.

Answer: Myth.

Though we are a noncredit program, we still issue final grades, such as "pass" and "no pass." We have implemented a rigorous, division-wide assessment process that evaluates students in the four skills areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Additionally, instructors evaluate students throughout the semester to provide them with the feedback they need to monitor their own progress and to help them improve their performance. Lastly, we are mandated to perform SLOACS and we currently use three different assessments. None of this can be accomplished without systematic and well-organized lesson planning and assessments on the part of our instructors.

Fact or Myth? Noncredit ESL instructors are as qualified as credit ESL instructors.

Answer: Fact.

Since we require all of our instructors and professors to have at least a master's, our minimum qualifications are the same.

Fact or Myth? Teaching noncredit ESL is boring and not very gratifying.

Answer: Myth.

As an ESL instructor, I can pick and choose from a plethora of topical and challenging sources to write up lesson plans designed to improve my students’ receptive and productive fluencies. During these past twenty-five years I have learned a lot about science, journalism, literature, politics, the arts and anything else that I think might pique my students’ interests. More importantly, my students’ success, appreciation, dedication and fortitude is overwhelming, and their desire to learn still causes me to wake up in the morning eager to try out new materials and ideas that can better help them achieve their goals. In November I will begin my “twenty-minute after-class” class for my morning level 4 CRESL students who want to start taking practice exams for the upcoming Credit ESL placement test held in December. Even though they will have been in my classroom from 9 AM to 12 Noon, they will stay the extra time, because they really want what our program has to teach them.

Fact or Myth? Forecasts indicate that noncredit ESL should get smaller. 

Answer: Myth.

The Governor has set up a two-year study to assess among other things the feasibility of transferring all of adult education currently housed in K-12 over to community colleges. In other words, community colleges may become the primary conduit for students 18 and over who want to further their education to get a job and/or to enter a for-credit program. In the meantime, while districts such as LAUSD continue to shrink their offerings in adult education (comprised mostly of ESL classes) to meet budget constraints and voter appeal, ESL students will continue to seek out community colleges like GCC to meet their needs.


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