Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Symposium
Sacramento, CA
June 20, 2011

Thank you, Greg (Jones). Being last, I'm sitting there thinking, "Everything has been said about the nation's report card and the 12th grade," but everybody hasn't said it. So here it goes: We're here today to talk about why preparation for jobs and for college is important. The responsibility that our K through 12 system has is to get folks prepared. Now I can tell you over the last 20 years or so, we have seen an epidemic of underpreparedness among incoming college students.

And when I say an epidemic, think about it this way: if this were a disease and more than 50 percent of all the people in this country had this disease, we'd be in trouble, and I think we would do a lot more about it if we thought about this disease of unpreparedness. And we would focus a lot more of our resources and our energy to fix this epidemic. You all already know this.

Too many students graduating from high schools are required to take remediation. I see so many students graduate from high school in California with a B average who can't do algebra when they get to the California State University. We also know that the cost of student's time and money and their parent's money delays graduation, taking them five or six years to graduate instead of four or five, and how unproductive that is for the workforce. The other thing that we know in looking at our retention rates is that too many students who come to us unprepared drop out. They just get discouraged and leave after their first semester or the first year.

Now you've heard this. Michael (Kirst) said this. This issue starts long before the 12th grade. It reaches down in the middle and even the elementary school years, so we're all a part of this.

Increasingly, if you look at the demographics of this country, you look and you see that the Latino population is going to triple in size in the next 40 years. The public schools of California are over 60 percent Latino. By 2050, Latinos will make up over 35 percent of the population in the United States. Many of these students come from homes where English is not spoken. They need more outreach, more assistance, and more help than we're giving them.

Now about six years ago, California State University started to work on this very problem. I believe that those of us in the university business need to get out of our ivory tower. We need to get into the public schools and the neighborhoods. The CSU has taken on a whole range of outreach efforts for the under-served community of California. Of those students that Greg talked about, over 400,000, almost 60 percent of them are from the under-served communities of color in California. That is why we have an over arching graduation initiative, and an Early Start program, and it's why we want to start in the 12th grade and earlier to get students prepared for the CSU.

We know that improving teacher education, both pre-service and in-service makes a difference. We have produced and distributed over five and a half million posters on how to get to college starting in the sixth grade. It is very prescriptive—it describes what tests to take, how to get financial aid, and how to get advice about going to college. Greg has worked with us and others here that I see.

We have something called Super Sundays. We're now in over 101 African-American churches throughout California. We talk to over 100,000 African-American families each year on how to get prepared to go to college. We have a program called PIQE—Parent Initiative for Quality Education—for Latino parents. We graduate about 10,000 parents a year from this program to prepare their students for college. And of course, we have had now for six years our Early Assessment Program for college readiness. As you know, EAP is a test taken in the 11th grade. I know we're here to talk about 12th grade academic preparedness.

Michael, you have a lot of power. Why don't you talk NAEP into offering the 12th grade NAEP at the 11th grade, and I'll come back and tell you why I recommend that. Our Early Assessment Program is offered in the 11th grade because we wanted to be able to tell students before they started the 12th grade as to whether or not they were on track to go to college.

As you saw on the community college screen, about 50 percent of the students are prepared in math, except here is the problem: If you don't take any math, as Michael said, from the time you're a junior in high school to the time you become a freshman in college, you're going to forget a hell of a lot of mathematics. So there is no math in the 12th grade. So what we've tried to do is get students to take Algebra I or Algebra II again in the 12th grade.

In our English early assessment program as you saw, only about 20 percent of the students are prepared at that level to go to college. Eighty percent are not. Now what are we doing about it? Well, we have started professional development programs for K through 12 teachers. One of the things that I've learned is what I call the "ah ha". That is when we went out and met with algebra teachers and explained the early assessment program standards of algebra. We got, "Ah ha, that's what you meant about algebra."

What I have found in California, and I know around the country, is that most high schools teach algebra-light. It might be algebra someday, but it's not algebra. So we've tried to get teachers to understand what those standards are. We've put together a math success and an English success website so that students can take math and English for free during the 12th grade, and we've started an expository reading and writing course for both 11th and 12th graders. Since we launched our early assessment test in 2006, we've tested more than 1.7 million California students.

What have we learned from the EAP? One, college preparedness starts early. College preparedness starts, frankly, in the third or fourth grade. We have to focus more on helping K through 12 because those are especially critical times for students to learn math and reading and writing.

Number two, you've heard this, and I'm going to repeat it. The 12th grade is the biggest wasteland in America, and I'd like to see Michael start to experiment in California with doing away with the 12th grade. Think what you could do with the money - superintendents are out here -- that you spend on the 12th grade if you took that and spent that on the first 11 grades.

Students don't take mathematics. It's not even recommended in a lot of 12th grades. They don't take reading in the 12th grade. You have a whole generation of students that can't read, and we don't teach reading in the 12th grade. What the hell do we need the 12th grade for? The other thing is there are a lot of really smart kids who are making decisions about going to college, going into community college, taking a trade, technical program. I think they're ready after the 11th grade. And think of the incentive program that you could put in place for students to complete that by the end of the 11th grade and start college right away. So as you can see, I am not a big fan of the 12th grade.

The other thing that we all have to think about in a better way is that college preparedness is everyone's responsibility. Here, I'm talking about every American, every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every member of the public, and every student—they all have the responsibility for better preparedness.

You heard me say this. We also have learned that there is no ivory tower. Michael talked about the eight percent of the students that go to the high-demand, high-entry level colleges and universities. I'm talking about the other 92 percent, and we have to get out of these ivory towers and get out there and explain what it takes to go to college. Many of these students have never set foot on a college or university. Their parents have never seen a college or university.

And the reason that we have to go to the schools and to the community, just think about this: Universities are great at inviting these people to come visit the campus. 7:00 in the evening, come to building C. First of all, try to find a parking place. Second, in the dark, try to find building C. We need to go to those schools to help them out.

Fifth, I think we've learned that common core standards are key, and I think we need to find a way to make sure that we're all on the same page in terms of expectations and achievements. California is a part of 43 other states that are adopting these rigorous standards.

Sixth, we need everyone's help to get better information out, especially about the EAP. And there's so much misinformation that gets out there. I'm surprised when I run into parents who say, "Well, I understand that my daughter or son didn't do well on EAP. That means they can't go to college."

No, that's not what it means. That means why don't you work during the 12th grade in order to get better prepared and take algebra again, take reading again. The other thing that we're going to try and do is to get more preparation in the 12th grade, but more preparation in the summer before school starts in September because we know that if those students start prepared, their chances of graduating are so much better.

Seventh, accountability is paramount. Our students, our parents, our tax payers need to know what the return is on their investment. We need to be able to say that in universal English so that they understand. And if they start to understand, they'll start to do something about helping us all improve preparedness. You know, I really would like to see California give the 12th grade NAEP test. One, for no other reason than to find out from the other states how California compares, but also how California compares in preparing Latinos, African-Americans, and others and find out what those states that do better are doing.

I think also, we can take the signs from the 12th grade NAEP and eighth grade and look at our EAP and see if that's right. I heard something last week, which I had not heard before. That was that the Early Assessment Program standards were too high. Now you know, people can say a lot of things, but I had not heard that until last week that we had set the standards too high. As Mark said earlier, that's the problem with all the graduation rates among all the states. If you set them low enough, they'll all graduate for sure, but then what happens to them?

So we could use the NAEP results to identify some of the best practices and help us close the gap between Latino students, African-American students, and the majority population.

Our main goal in CSU is to help students become better prepared for college, to come prepared, and to graduate. Let me stop there and thank you. I will be glad to take any questions.