CSU FRESHMAN PROFICIENCY IN MATH INCREASES AGAIN, PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH REMAINS THE SAME

Ninety-seven percent of California State University fall 1999 freshmen who returned in the fall of 2000 were proficient in both mathematics and English, an increase of three percentage points over last year, according to a report presented to the CSU Board of Trustees today (Wednesday, Jan. 24).

The report also showed that the percentage of freshmen who entered the CSU in fall 2000 and were proficient in mathematics increased by about three percentage points to 55 percent, and the percentage proficient in English remained at about 54, when compared to figures from the fall of 1999. After several years of decline, the percentage of freshmen proficient in English and in mathematics has improved for the last three years.

"The CSU campuses have been working very hard with the public schools, and we are beginning to see the results of those strengthened relationships. We're making progress, but there is more work to do," said David Spence, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. "We are pleased to see that students have put forth the effort and campuses have invested the resources so that incoming students are better prepared and second-year CSU students have mastered the basics."

There are two factors that make increasing proficiency in math and English particularly challenging at the CSU: the CSU math placement standards are higher than any other state; and about 40 percent of CSU students come from households where English is not the primary language spoken.

Increasing proficiency in English and mathematics for incoming freshmen has been a CSU priority for several years. In 1996 the Trustees adopted a policy designed to reduce the need for remediation at the college level and called for annual reports on the progress of the policy. The Trustee goal is to increase proficiency in English and math to 90 percent by 2007.

Since the policy was adopted, the CSU has implemented many collaborative initiatives with the K-12 system that are designed to reduce the need for remedial education. The CSU credits the improvement to these initiatives, which include:

  • Communicating university standards and expectations to students, parents and schools.
  • Setting clear standards and assessing performance to ensure students meet high school graduation and university admission requirements.
  • Sending more CSU students and faculty into high schools to tutor and mentor students.
  • Providing early assessment after admission and before enrollment to help ensure that those who need remedial education receive it during their first term of enrollment.
  • Strengthening teacher preparation.
  • Offering more summer remedial education programs.
  • Informing high schools and community colleges about student performance after the first year of attendance at the CSU so they can evaluate their success.

The CSU allocated $9 million in 1999/00 to campuses for such outreach efforts to 150 public high schools that send the CSU the most students needing remedial education, and the Governor has proposed an additional $8 million to expand to 300 schools in 2001/02.

In addition to working with the high schools, the CSU in the fall of 1998 began implementing a policy that strongly urged incoming freshmen needing remediation to get the assistance they need before beginning their sophomore years or face possible disenrollment. The students took the policy seriously, and 94 percent of those returning for their second year in fall 1999 were proficient.

The policy allows for case-by-case exceptions for students who do not become proficient by the end of their first year. In the fall of 2000 about three percent of freshmen who did not complete remediation were allowed to return for their second year.

24 January 2001


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