Report: More than half of freshmen at Calif. university need remedial classes
Associated Press
Mar. 16, 2005

 LONG BEACH, Calif. - More than half of California State University's freshmen needed to brush up their English or math skills before they were ready to tackle college - numbers below previously set proficiency goals.

Just 43 percent of the incoming freshmen were proficient in both English and math, the study released Tuesday found.

According to the report, 37 percent of the students needed remedial classes in math and 47 percent needed them in English, based on assessments after they were admitted. Some students needed classes in both subjects. 

The 2004 goal had been to lower the remedial levels to 26 percent for math and 22 percent for English.

The proficiency rate for the 38,859 incoming freshman at CSU, the nation's largest public university system, was essentially unchanged from the previous two years.

David Spence, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for CSU, said the report shows that "we've reached, I don't know if it's a brick wall, it's some kind of wall on using traditional methods for helping students come to us better prepared, more proficient."

The students' grades weren't bad - those needing remedial English had a mean grade-point average of 3.2. But they simply weren't up to college standard, a problem Spence said exists nationwide.

"You take the right courses and you get a B or an A in it, you get admitted to college and you're not ready," he said. "It's not the students' fault."

Officials said there has been significant improvement since 1998, when CSU adopted a policy to increase proficiency in English and mathematics, and said they are hopeful that a relatively new approach, the Early Assessment Program, will push proficiency levels higher.

Spence predicted that the Early Assessment Program, which now reaches high school juniors, has the potential to carry CSU to its 2007 goal of 90 percent proficiency in math and English.

"We think by next fall, we're going to start to see positive results," said Spence, who presented the report to CSU trustees at their regular meeting in Long Beach.