Background of the BSI

Background of the Basic Skills Initiative (BSI)

The California Community Colleges (CCC) is the largest system of higher education in the world, serving more than 2.5 million students.  Of that number, 70 to 80% are underprepared for college-level work.  This translates into nearly 2 million students in need of educational support.  Assisting the underprepared student to attain the basic skills needed to succeed in college-level work has been a core function of community colleges throughout their history.

However, few of the nearly 100,000 faculty, administrators, and staff of the California community colleges have received any type of preparation or training to address the needs of basic skills students at the classroom, program, or institutional levels.

In 2006, an unprecedented collaboration began among the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, California Community Colleges Chief Instructional Officers, California Community Colleges Chief Student Services Officers, and California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to seek solutions to the mounting failure of many community college students.

Thus the Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) was born out of the vital need to raise the success rate of our students.


  • Basic Skills as a Foundation for Success in California Community Colleges (the Poppy Copy)
  • Professional development for over 1600 faculty, administrators, and staff
  • Beginning in October 2007, and continuing over the course of nearly a year and a half, a group of CCC leaders including system representative organizations such as CCCCO, ASCCC, CEOs, CIOs, CSSOs, The RP Group, plus expert practitioners, private foundation groups that promote the scholarship of teaching and learning such as Hewlett, and representatives of statewide initiatives like Career Ladders Project got together for a series of convenings in support of the concept that, as is clear from research literature, professional development contributes to student learning when it is a) ongoing, b) linked to curriculum and instruction, and c) undertaken collaboratively.   The group coalesced around the purpose of creating a systematic, collaborative, and permanent network for professional learning that would support and promote increases in student access, success, and equity.


  • Regional workshops showcasing effective practices, exemplary programs, and strategies
  • Award of the 2008 ESL/Basic Skills Professional Development Grant to the Los Angeles Community College District to work with partners across the state to form the infrastructure for a permanent professional development network, i.e., a statewide resource network designed to support ongoing professional development for increasing student access, success, equity, and completion.