California’s 11th graders get early signal of their math and English proficiency

Contacts: (CSU) Clara Potes-Fellow, (562) 951-4800,
(Calif. Dept. of Education) Ann S. Bancroft, (916) 319-0818,

(October 13, 2004)—In an unprecedented partnership between the California State University and California’s K-12 public schools to assess college readiness, nearly 40 percent of 11th grade students this year volunteered to take tests of their abilities to succeed at college-level mathematics and English at the California State University.

“Results of the new Early Assessment give a timely, early signal to students about their own readiness for college-level mathematics and English,” said David S. Spence, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. “By taking the new test, students will know prior to their entering the 12th grade whether they need more preparation for college. A key benefit of taking the test includes the possibility of earning an exemption from CSU-required English or mathematics placement tests upon admission to a CSU campus.”

Students in 11th grade participate in the Early Assessment Program by responding to an extended version of the California Standards Test, the statewide assessment given annually to all 2nd through 11th graders.

In spring 2004, the first year that the test was made available to all public school 11th graders, more than 150,000 students took the extended test in English and 115,000 in mathematics.

Among those tested in English, 33,720 students, or 22 percent, were classified as ready to take English courses at the college level and are exempt from taking the CSU English Placement Test after admission. In mathematics, 63,504 students, or 55 percent of those tested, scored high enough to take college level mathematics.

“Once again California is leading the country in helping to prepare our children,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. “Too often in the past, students entered their senior year without a realistic sense of their ability to succeed in college. But with this unprecedented collaboration between the California State University and the K-12 community, this test will serve as a wake-up call for many of our high school students, and steer them to do what it takes in their senior year to become academically prepared.”

Results of the first-year test, he said, confirm the need to increase rigorous coursework in California’s high schools, one of O’Connell’s top priorities as state superintendent.

Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the CSU, said that the percentages of juniors ready for college were about what was expected from this first year of testing. “Given that students have another year of high school remaining, there is time for those who are not ready to develop the skills they need,” he said.

“The public schools and the California State University are thrilled by the response,” said CSU Trustee Roberta Achtenberg, chair of the Trustee’s Educational Policy Committee. “Students should interpret their test results as a signal. Those doing well on the tests should be mentored to continue on to college, and those not performing yet at college readiness level should be encouraged to work harder in their senior year to improve their English or mathematics skills.”

Early notification of high school juniors regarding their readiness for college is the first step in a comprehensive effort by the California State University, Superintendent O’Connell, and the state Board of Education to smooth the transition between high school and college and better prepare all students to do college-level work. The three partners in this effort are working to strengthen the senior year of high school by developing new courses, providing services, and offering professional development for K-12 teachers.

CSU faculty and high schools are collaborating to develop 12th grade instructional activities to assist those students who need additional preparation. Activities include a teacher development program to strengthen 12th grade courses on expository writing and reading. In addition, the CSU website at has a Diagnostic Writing Service, a Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project, and a Math Success tutorial. Students and the public can use them to assess their current skills and to increase their proficiency.

The Early Assessment Program (EAP) was developed after a three-year collaboration among the California State University, the California Department of Education, and the state Board of Education to better determine if students are ready for college and to allow those whose test scores indicate that they are not proficient in college level mathematics and English to more fully prepare during their 12th grade.

Education officials anticipate that English and math proficiency of CSU first-time freshmen will rise as a result of early intervention in high school. The CSU Board of Trustees policy is to reduce the need for remediation of incoming freshmen to 10 percent, within the next three years. Currently more than half are in need of remediation.

The California State University draws its students from the top third of California’s high school graduates, which means only students who earn a B average or better in high school are directly eligible for regular admission to the CSU, according to the California Master Plan for Higher Education.

To obtain in-depth information about the EAP, please visit

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Last Updated: October 13, 2004

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