Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
Hunt Institute NC Legislators Retreat
Pinehurst, NC
January 9, 2012

Thank you, Gavin (Payne).

College standards should't be a mystery.

Too often, colleges and universities have been keeping their standards a secret. High school requirements do not represent the knowledge and skills expected for successful first-year college students. In many places, high school students don't know exactly what higher education wants them to master in K-12.

This means that students can earn a high school diploma without the academic skills necessary for college.

Plus, in North Carolina, just as in California - students are no longer mostly white, middle-class, with college-educated parents. The biggest demographic shift is in students from traditionally under-served populations, many of whom come from homes where English isn't even spoken. Many parents - and in some cases even teachers - do not have the full picture of what standards are expected in college.

At the California State University, we have struggled for many years with large numbers of students arriving at our campuses unprepared for college-level work. Keep in mind that these students all have taken the required college prep curriculum and earned at least a B grade point average in high school.

Given that the vast majority of our students come from California's public schools, we knew that we needed to work directly with the schools to bridge the gap. Collaboration between K-12 and postsecondary education helps us make sure that we are all working toward a common set of goals in college readiness - and it provides a way to level the playing field for all schools and students. These students of color and from under-served populations can achieve the standards.


We have found that the 12th grade tends to be a big waste of time for many students. We decided we needed an “early warning” system to let high school juniors know what areas they needed to work on during their senior year.

The EAP (Early Assessment Program) is a collaborative effort that the CSU launched with the California Department of Education and the California State Board of Education. Our goal was to ensure that college-bound high school seniors would be college ready and have mastered the content skills in English and mathematics.

This test is administered as a voluntary assessment of college readiness as part of the California Standards Test (CST). It helps high school students determine if they are on track for college level math and English. Students receive results on this test prior to 12th grade and then they can make better use of their senior year to prepare for college.

The central idea was to get both K-12 and higher education on the same page in terms of what is expected.

Secretaries Spelling and Duncan both recognized the importance of what we were doing in California. They agreed that if the CSU and California could provide an early warning to students whether they were on track to be college ready, then it should be possible on a national level.

Now content expectations are embedded in the Common Core State Standards from grades K-11 so that students are on board throughout their K-12 career.

Lessons From EAP Implementation

What have we learned from our EAP program? We have learned about how important it is to do the following:

  • Start Early: I hope you have seen our “How to Get to College” posters - We have distributed these to more than a million California students. This step-by-step guide tells how to get to college, beginning in the 6th grade.

  • Clarify the Standards: Most K-12 teachers did not understand what the algebra standards were. When we came to them and showed them exactly what students needed to know, it was an “a-ha” moment for them.

  • Support the Schools: Higher education must assist high schools by providing support, mentoring, teacher professional development, and curriculum help.

  • Continue to Teach Reading: Many schools stop direct teaching of reading and reading comprehension at around 6th grade. We learned from CSU’s remediation program that students could read, but they had a hard time reading textbooks or non-fiction.
    We need to help them strengthen their skills in informational reading.

The CSU has developed a 12th grade Expository Reading and Writing course to help high school teachers to teach students how to read non-fiction and informational texts. This ERWC course is a full-year college prep English course for high school juniors or senior that has become a national model.

Approximately 30 percent of the high schools in California have either adopted ERWC as a full-year course in 12th grade or are using its curriculum for a 12th grade composition course.

Many other schools have adopted the curriculum informally by integrating it within existing English courses across grades 9-12.

EAP Results

So - how is the EAP working?
Results released last month show that our high school juniors have made marked increases in their level of proficiency in both math and English. 

With six years (2006-2011) of complete EAP testing data available, we found:

  • A 10 percentage-point increase in the number of students who have completed Algebra II or higher (a requirement to take the EAP), as well as an increase in the pool of proficient students.

  • An increase of 70,000 students participating in the English portion of the test with a 7 percentage-point increase in proficiency.

Both participation rates and proficiency have increased since the EAP was first administered.  The number of students participating in the voluntary assessment has increased by 68,000 to more than 385,000 statewide. That represents 81% of all juniors enrolled in public high schools in the state.

We believe that students are hearing the message about the importance of taking algebra since it is the critical link to college readiness. And students are also hearing the message that it’s important to make the most of your senior year in high school.

Early Start

Last but not least I want to mention the CSU’s Early Start program. This program is for CSU admitted freshmen who have not demonstrated college ready proficiency in math and/or English.

As of summer 2012, incoming freshmen who have not demonstrated proficiency in English and/or math will be required to begin remediation prior to the term for which they have been admitted, - for example, in the summer term prior to the fall they enroll.

They will be required to achieve proficiency in English and/or math before the end of their first year of enrollment at a CSU campus.

The CSU has many resources for students at the campus level including math intensive “summer bridge” programs and partnerships with local community colleges. We also have online math and English courses designed to help them reach proficiency.

That said, we still have a long way to go. In a perfect system, there would be no need for remediation because students would have gotten all the help they needed before they came to us.

For any state to carry out this kind of collaborative project, there has to be a policy that provides for a partnership between the community colleges, universities, and state board of education. Plus, all of these different personalities have to be willing to work together.

We are fortunate to have that kind of collaboration in California, but there still is plenty of work left to do.

Ultimately, we know that the better prepared students are when they come to a university campus, the more successful they will be in achieving their goal of a college degree.

Thank you for your interest in the EAP and in solving the remediation problem.

I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.