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Community Colleges Stiffen Reading Standard

May 13, 2000

VENTURA COUNTY — The county's community college district has adopted a reading comprehension standard for graduates that is more rigorous than that required by most of the state's other districts.

Under the new requirement, adopted by district trustees last week, students seeking an associate in arts degree must pass two language-related classes--twice the number that state law requires. Courses that satisfy the requirement include English literature, philosophy and applied mathematics.

"We wanted something that we saw as rigorous," said Ventura College Vice President Ron Dyste, who chaired a faculty committee that helped develop the new standards.

However, Dyste said the new requirement will do little to help the large number of students in the district with poor reading skills. Those students, whom Dyste estimated at nearly 50% of the district's incoming freshmen, prompted some instructors at Ventura College to push for a graduation requirement that would certify students' reading comprehension abilities beyond just receiving a passing grade in two language-related courses.

District Chancellor Philip Westin, who worked out the new reading proposal with faculty and administrators, said he is confident that requiring two language-related courses will provide sufficient proof that graduating students have college-level reading abilities.

"To get through courses, you have to read and you're tested on it again and again. And these are courses that have to be approved by the board," he said.

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