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Test Helps Gilroy High Juniors Avoid Remedial Courses

Gilroy Dispatch 1/6/07

Less than half of Gilroy High School students entering Gavilan tested into college-level classes. More than 60 percent of freshmen entering the California State University system proved unprepared for college courses. Such dire statistics led CSU to develop a program that could mean fewer remedial courses at universities and more money in the pockets of parents sending their kids to college.

The Early Assessment Program tests the college readiness of high school juniors after they complete an additional 15 math and English questions and write an essay following the California Standards Test given in the Spring.

The test, which is a collaborative effort among the State Board of Education, California Department of Education and the CSU system, takes about an hour and is graded by CSU faculty. The results act as a gauge, showing students if they are behind in math or English. The test is designed for high school Juniors, who can use their Senior year to fill in the educational gaps their scores may bring to light.

"Once students take the test, they see if they are on track to be ready for college classes," said Clara Potes-Fellow, spokesperson for CSU. "If it appears they are struggling with math, they can take a fourth year of math, which is not required in most high schools. They can also use our online math modules for help. If they are having problems with English, depending on the school, they can take an English class taught according to a CSU module."

GHS has not adopted the CSU English class modules because most of the information is already incorporated into senior classes, said James Maxwell, principal of GHS.

The EAP test is currently a voluntary exam. Counselors at the high school give presentations to every junior class encouraging them to take the test so they can get an idea of how prepared they are for college, said Veronica Alfaro, an academic coordinator at GHS.

"We explain to students that by taking this test, they may be able to exempt themselves from taking the CSU placement tests in the future, which are often several hours on a Saturday and cost money," she said. "We explain that if they show they're ready for college-level classes, they won't have to worry about being stuck in remediation. It will also help them know if they aren't ready for college so they can get ready."

Gilroy Unified School District board trustees Tom Bundros, Pat Midtgaard and Rhoda Bress attended a seminar on the EAP at the California School Board Association's annual conference late last year.

"I hadn't heard much about (the EAP) before the conference, but it certainly sounds like something we should be taking full advantage of," Midtgaard said. "I know it's voluntary, but I think we should be doing everything we can to encourage students to take the test and informing parents about the benefits of the test. We'll definitely be talking about the EAP in the coming year."

Midtgaard pointed out the EAP test could potentially save parents thousands of dollars. If students enter college and have to take remedial classes - classes they should have taken and mastered in high school - parents will be paying top dollar for an education their child could have gotten at GHS.

"It's advantageous for parents to know where their child is academically, and it's advantageous for the student to know if they've got catching up to do during their senior year," she said. "This test may help change the perception that a student's senior year is supposed to be a kick-back year. The senior year is the time a student can be making sure they're ready for the next step in their education."

District administrators did not immediately know how many GHS students had opted to take the EAP test.