English, Math Proficiency of CSU Freshmen Shows Modest Increases

Contact: Clara Potes-Fellow, (562) 951-4800, cpotes-fellow@calstate.edu

(March 14, 2006) – The percentage of high school graduates who entered the California State University proficient in both mathematics and English increased from 43 to 45 percent, from fall 2004 to fall 2005, according to the latest report on college readiness presented today to the CSU Board of Trustees.

Proficiency, or readiness for college-level work, is measured by placement standards that CSU faculty have set at a level that is among the highest in the United States.

Mathematics proficiency increased from 63 to 64 percent and English proficiency increased from 53 to 55 percent.

Mathematics proficiency has increased 18 percentage points since 1998 when the CSU began measuring proficiency. At the time, 46 percent of high school graduates regularly accepted as first-time freshmen at the CSU were proficient in mathematics.

English proficiency has remained almost constant over the seven-year period. In 1998, 53 percent of regularly-admitted first-time freshmen students came to the CSU proficient in English; in 2005 that number stood at 55 percent.

In January 1996, the CSU Board of Trustees adopted the goal of reducing the need for remediation in English and mathematics of high school graduates admitted as first-time freshmen to the CSU. The goal calls for 90 percent proficiency by 2007.

“Proficiency of high school graduates has improved over the years, largely due to the efforts of talented professionals in the K-12 school system, as well as students and their families,” said Gary Reichard, CSU’s executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. “The CSU has been working effectively to build partnerships with K-12 leaders in an effort to achieve the common goal of a larger proportion of first-time freshmen who are fully prepared for college work in English and mathematics. However, more time is clearly needed to reach the Trustees’ goals because systemic changes will be necessary in elementary, middle and high school to accomplish these objectives.”

The CSU report also observes that freshman proficiency 30 years ago was not all that different from today. In 1972, 58 percent of freshmen were English proficient compared to 55 percent today; and 59 percent of freshmen were math proficient compared to 64 percent today. Thus English and mathematics proficiency remained more or less stable in the midst of enormous demographic shifts over the past thirty years, including the influx of many more students from non-English speaking families.

In that period, the number of CSU freshmen (including both first-time and continuing freshmen) has almost doubled to nearly 75,000. During the same period, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander freshmen grew by 600 percent.

The CSU data also evaluate the progress of students who were not college-ready when they entered the CSU. In fall 2004, of 22,004 first-time freshmen who entered the CSU not proficient in English, math, or both, 18,464 succeeded by taking appropriate classes in becoming fully proficient by the end of their first year.

Of the 3,540 within the group who still needed remediation as of fall 2005, 2,185 did not demonstrate enough progress and were not permitted to re-enroll; 857 were permitted to re-enroll conditionally, and 498 left campus on their own.

Since the 1990s, the CSU has developed many coordinated programs to improve the English and mathematics readiness of high school graduates. Among them, the Early Assessment Program has acquired national notice as the most innovative program in the U.S. to align K-12 standards with college expectations for first-year freshmen.

The EAP promotes improved teaching and learning. It provides 11th graders with an early signal about their English and math readiness for college and equips teachers to enrich the 12th grade experience with English and mathematics instruction.


The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 405,000 students and 44,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded about 2 million degrees, about 84,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California. See www.calstate.edu

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Last Updated: March 14, 2006

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