|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
San Jose Mercury News 11-2-04
Exam tests students on college readiness
Californians learned this fall that only 22 percent of high school juniors who volunteered to take a new test to measure college readiness showed they were prepared to tackle college English. And while the news is better in Bay Area high schools, it's only marginally better, figures released Monday show.
Only a handful of school districts in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Santa Cruz counties had anywhere near half their juniors who took the test demonstrate that they are reading and writing well enough to handle freshman English in college.
Students' scores in math proficiency, both locally and statewide, were higher than in the language part of the test. Statewide, 87 percent of the juniors who completed it could perform at the college freshman level. In Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Santa Cruz counties, the rates were higher than 90 percent.
But statewide, only 27 percent were so advanced that they could afford to skip math in their senior year of high school. Math skills drop when they aren't used, and skipping math as a high school senior means more of those students would need remediation.
The new early assessment program is designed to bridge the gap between high school and college by letting students know whether they need additional work in language arts and math skills in their senior year to avoid having to take remedial courses when they enter a California State University campus.
Students who test ready for college as juniors can bypass CSU's math and English placement exams.
The results for individual students have been returned to school districts. Schools are supposed to give the students their test results.
The first batch of students -- nearly 40 percent of the state's juniors -- took the first early assessment test last spring. Students have a choice about whether to take the test. Some of the questions are part of the required California Standards Test given to all juniors. In addition, students who volunteer must answer supplemental English and math questions and complete an essay.
The new college-readiness testing is a cooperative effort of CSU, the State Board of Education and the California Department of Education.
Testing coordinators for several area school districts said it is too early to say whether the early assessment program will help schools and districts better prepare their students for college.
District testing officials said that the test results show only whether a student is prepared, provisionally prepared or not prepared, but doesn't give any breakdown of a student's weak areas. At a minimum, they said, the schools need to receive the results before students begin their senior year. This year, they didn't arrive until late September.
School districts could do more to help students if they had more detailed information about how they scored, said Aaron Buchanan, San Jose Unified School District's director of research and assessment. Seeing the essays would be especially helpful, he said.
A district's results on the early assessment depend on which students took the test, said Diane Means, director of assessment for the Santa Clara Unified School District. ``It's not representative of the entire group,'' she said.
Means said her district encouraged all juniors to take the voluntary part of the test, but about 30 percent of those who did either did not answer enough questions to complete the test or did not take the essay exam, which was given at a later date. Means said participation probably would improve if the essay were given at the same time as the rest of the test.
``We already have a lot of remediation in place for students who aren't doing well'' on other state tests, Means said. Some college-bound students who aren't having obvious trouble academically might not be on a school's radar as needing extra help.
``This may help us pay more attention to the kids we don't think of as at-risk,'' Means said. ``That may be a real positive side of it.''
CSU said the test results are only the first step in a comprehensive college-readiness program that will include professional development for high school teachers and curriculum and diagnostic tools to help students prepare for college work.
These news clips are provided by the Public Affairs Department of The California State University. They are intended for the internal use of The California State University system and should not be redistributed. Questions and submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.