ESL assessments and graduation discussed at Academic Senate

The Academic Senate met through a Zoom meeting on May 4 to discuss struggles with English as a second language (ESL) assessments and upcoming virtual events.

English instructor Jamie Ray said that Pierce is struggling to place ESL students properly in regards to AB705, an assessment law for California community colleges.

“The ESL AB705 changes that we have made are supposed to go into effect starting July because that’s when we decide where to place students in the fall,” Ray said.

According to Academic Senate President Barbara Anderson, the deadline to process how ESL students will be accommodated is fall 2020.

“The biggest problem is that now, schools in our district and across the state that have depended on assessments to place students into an ESL sequence, can’t do that anymore,” Ray said.

According to Ray, the ESL assessment at Pierce is a written test. Due to the campus closure, it’s uncertain how the tests will be given.

“That’s the biggest thing right now for the placement process because, as of now, we are not placing students for ESL in the fall,” Ray said. “We have nothing right now and that’s a big problem.”

Ray said a solution could be if the district decides to administer the placement exams online. But as of yet, tests cannot be given online.

“It’s sad,” Ray said. “We get questions from these ESL students, and we don’t have any answers for them. It’s a problem at the district level. There’s nothing we can do to help them.”

Pierce College President Alexis Montevirgen said how the school intends to commemorate the current graduating class during the pandemic.

“The district task force is looking at how to handle commencement and graduation ceremonies,” Montevirgen said. “They are coming up with a plan that, right now, is to hold virtual celebrations and recognitions.”

Montevirgen also said the virtual celebration is not a commencement ceremony.

“I think we heard loud and clear from students that they would like a full, in-person commencement when the opportunity allows,” Montevirgen said. “What we will be doing for June, will try and still provide some sort of virtual recognition ceremony where students can still have an opportunity to celebrate virtually and be acknowledged for their accomplishments.”

The Associated Students Organization (ASO) President Vivian Yee said in an update that the ASO has allocated $15,000 of its funds to Pierce to buy laptops for students.

Pierce College counselor Jeanette Madueña spoke about the upcoming virtual UCLA day on May 7, for students interested in transferring. 

Students can register via the Transfer Center website to receive a link to attend. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“All the main UCLA offices will be participating in the event. That includes the admissions, financial aid, housing, as well as offices for all the different majors,”  Madueña said. “They’re all going to be there to answer students’ questions.”

Before the Academic Senate meeting adjourned, Montevirgen recognized Pierce student Juan Carlos Becerra for receiving the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.

According to Montevirgen, Becerra is one of 50 students nationally to earn the scholarship. 

“He will be honored, along with two others, one at Valley and one other student at LA City,” Montevirgen said. “We’re very proud of him.”