Campus: Cal Poly, Pomona -- December 9, 1999


Cal Poly Pomona Joins With Area High Schools To Help Students Improve English And Math Skills

A good education begins with the basics. Yet a growing number of students lack important fundamentals in English and mathematics when they start college.

Funded by a grant from the California State University (CSU) system, Cal Poly Pomona has established a one-year pilot program in partnership with several area high schools, part of a three-year collaborative effort seeking to improve student English and math skills at the high school level.

"We want to give students a vision -- both of college and of a career -- early on in their education. We want them to see a road map," says Richard Navarro, dean of the School of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona. "For high school teachers, I want them to feel we are a resource, something they can rely on, if they need it, on a daily basis."

In Fall 1998, 78 percent of first-year students entering CSU-member institutions requiring some form of remedial education either in English, math or both. The CSU, by its own timetable, has set a maximum ceiling of 10 percent by Fall 2007. Yet rather than simply publish required guidelines, the CSU decided the best way to improve the situation is to assist students while still attending high school.

Cal Poly Pomona recently received $716,668 in funding, part of $9 million allocated by the CSU to establish CSU-High School Faculty-to-Faculty Alliance and Learning Assistance programs. The CSU Chancellor's Office allocated outreach funds from its 1999-2000 budget to 18 member universities with a goal of partnering each with high schools identified as sending the CSU the most students requiring remedial studies in English and math.

"We hope these programs will make a significant difference in reducing the need for remedial education for incoming CSU freshmen by ensuring they acquire basic English and math skills before graduating from high school," says CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. "The only way to help these students is for the K-12 and CSU systems to work together for the good of the students and the future of California."

Cal Poly Pomona's one-year pilot program will involve six local high schools: La Puente Nogales, West Covina and West Covina South Hills in English; La Puente, Diamond Bar and Pomona Garey in math. Selected by severity of need and each school's demonstration of readiness and commitment to participate, those six are intended to serve as a foundation.

The program will test high school students for proficiency in English and math and open avenues for improved teaching methods. It will feature direct contact between high school faculty and staff and their Cal Poly Pomona counterparts in an attempt to improve classroom instruction, with a focus on discussion and dissemination of successful methods. In the process, it will also create one-on-one teaching partnerships between high school and university faculty, provide sustained tutoring programs utilizing Cal Poly Pomona students, and develop and deliver on-line tutorials, on-site refresher/review courses and outreach activities geared to motivate high school students.

While six schools are initially targeted, all meetings and discussions relating to the program are open to faculty and staff from every school and district within Cal Poly Pomona's contact area. That includes the East San Gabriel Valley Educational Consortium (ESGVEC), made up of 13 school districts, five institutions of higher learning and three Regional Occupational Partnership programs. Nine of the ESGVEC's member high schools are among the 200-plus listed as sending the most students in need of some remediation to the CSU.

Goals of the three-year program include increasing basic English and math proficiency skills of high school juniors and seniors; increasing the number of graduating high school seniors able to pass the CSU English and math placement tests; reducing the number of first-time students entering the CSU who require remediation; and improving the academic performance of first-time entering students during their initial year at a CSU institution.

By the end of three years, all 42 ESGVEC high schools (with a combined current enrollment of nearly 49,000) will benefit along with an additional 16 area schools not part of that consortium.

According to the project's own objectives, the key to successful implementation is forming direct relationships between faculty, staff and students at Cal Poly Pomona and their counterparts at the high schools and districts involved.

"We have a commitment and an obligation to build these partnerships," says Richard Santillan, interim vice president of academic affairs at Cal Poly Pomona. "Ultimately, I believe this is the right road. We just can't close the doors."

Santillan points out that in the CSU, of the first year students enrolled in Fall 1998 that required remediation, 94 percent attained the required levels by the end of the 1998-99 school year and were considered "remediation-free."

"Where there's a will, there's a commitment," says Santillan. "A commitment of leadership."



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