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California State University Continues Its Focus on Better Preparing Students for College Level Academics

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(January 26, 2011) – As part of its overall effort to ensure student success and help students reach their goal of earning a college degree, the California State University is focused on preparing students sooner for college level work.  The system has started implementing a cornerstone of this initiative called Early Start, which combined with the CSU's ground breaking Early Assessment Program test, has the potential to dramatically decrease the need for remediation during a student's collegiate experience. 

"Early Start sets students on a path to initiate the remediation process prior to beginning their first term at a CSU," said Ephraim Smith, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for the CSU.  "Numerous studies have shown that the sooner students can be brought up to proficiency levels, the better the chances for their ultimate success."  Earlier this week, CSU Trustees received an update of the Early Start progress at its board meeting in Long Beach on Jan. 25 and 26.

In March 2010, CSU trustees adopted the "Early Start" policy to help students be better prepared in mathematics and English when they enter the CSU as incoming freshmen.  Approximately half of CSU's regularly admitted freshmen are not proficient in math and/or English and are required to take developmental courses during their initial year of college.  CSU estimates it spends $30 million annually on remediation, and it often results in students falling behind their classmates as they attempt to complete CSU degree requirements. 

Under Early Start, beginning in summer 2012, students who are not proficient in math or "at risk" in English will be required to demonstrate they have started the remediation process prior to enrolling at a CSU campus.  However, students will still be allowed to enroll even if they still need some remediation following this initial effort.  There will be many available options including taking additional math or writing classes during their senior year of high school, taking an on-line refresher course or attending remedial classes at their local community college. 

Since its adoption, all 23 CSU campuses have been working to develop their individual Early Start campus plans, which have identified innovative best practices including:

  • Expansion of existing summer Early Start programs such as Summer Bridge
  • Increased use of on-line learning for students who are almost proficient
  • Expanded use of Early Assessment scores to encourage high school seniors to become proficient in math and English prior to attending the CSU
  • Additional collaboration with California Community College partners and local high school faculty

The final stage of Early Start in English for all students who have not demonstrated proficiency is expected to take place by summer 2014.

Early Assessment Program (EAP)
A key to the success of the Early Start initiative is the continued expansion of CSU's Early Assessment Program test that high school juniors can take to determine if they are ready for college level work in math and English.  The EAP is administered as a voluntary part of the California Standards Test (CST) taken state-wide by students in the 11th grade.  By receiving results prior to their final year of high school, students can make better use of both their senior year of high school and the summer prior to their freshman year to prepare for college.

Since its implementation in 2006, more than 1.7 million students have taken the voluntary EAP test with 84 percent of eligible students (378,870) taking the English test in 2010.  Additionally, proficiency rates have also shown steady improvement with students demonstrating a marked increase in English proficiency over 2009 results.

EAP testing is not limited to CSU-bound students as 2010 marked the first year that students were also able to authorize the release of their EAP results to California Community Colleges for use in placement.

An additional element of EAP is professional development for high school teachers and other educators to inform them about college readiness and strategies designed to prepare students for success in college.  The Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) workshop is offered to high school English teachers, and those participating have reported improved results in their students' reading and writing skills, increased student enjoyment and motivation in class, as well as improved student outcomes.

Similar professional development programs have also been created for math teachers.

For more information on EAP testing, please visit


About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 433,000 students year round and 44,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. A recent economic report found that the CSU supports more than 150,000 jobs statewide, annually. The engine driving job creation is more than $17 billion in economic activity that directly results from CSU-related spending that generates $5.43 for every dollar the state invests. The mission of the CSU 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.

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