First-Time CSUF Freshmen
Improve in Math Proficiency
by Dave Reid
from Dateline (February 13, 2003)
First-time freshmen entering Cal State Fullerton
in fall 2002 showed gains in math proficiency over the previous
year, according to data released late last month by the California
State University Chancellor’s Office. CSUF and Cal
State Los Angeles tied for the top spot for having the most successful
remediation programs in the CSU.
Fullerton’s strong showing in math proficiency
places it among the top five in the 23-campus system, with a total
of 69.2 percent of entering freshmen proficient in math. This compares
with the systemwide average of 63 percent, and the Fullerton mark
of 61.6 percent the previous year.
Overall, 20 CSU campuses showed an increase in math
proficiency last fall.
English proficiency for first-time CSUF freshmen dipped
to 47.6 percent in 2002, a decrease from 51.9 percent for the previous
year. The decrease echoed a systemwide trend in which English proficiency
went from 53.8 percent to 51 percent. Sixteen of the CSU campuses
showed a decline in English proficiency in 2002.
Eighty-six percent of CSUF students needing math or
English remediation were successful in passing proficiency exams,
usually after one semester. Fullerton tied Los Angeles for the top
spot in remediation success rates.
First-time CSU freshmen must demonstrate math and
English proficiency by passing the Entry-Level Math (ELM) test and
the English Placement Test (EPT) prior to enrollment.
The tests are designed to identify students who may
need additional support in acquiring basic English and mathematics
skills necessary to succeed in baccalaureate classes. Students who
do not pass one or both of the tests have to take remedial classes
to achieve proficiency.
Forty-one percent of first-time freshmen entering
a CSU campus last fall were proficient in both math and English
– a three-percentage point increase over 2001 and an increase
of nine-percentage points from 1998, when the CSU implemented a
policy to diagnose proficiency and begin early remediation at CSU
campuses and high schools.
“Proficiency improvements in entering freshmen
signal that CSU’s approach to resolving remedial problems
of first-year freshmen is beginning to show results,” said
David Spence, CSU’s executive vice chancellor and chief academic
“At Cal State Fullerton, our aim is to meet
the proficiency goals of the trustees,” said Ephraim Smith,
vice president for academic affairs. “Our math proficiency
scores are improving each year, and our remediation programs have
been very successful. We have good programs in place and our faculty
members have been very successful in helping students become proficient
in math and English.”
The goal is to achieve proficiency levels of 74 percent
in 2004 and 90 percent by 2007.
English proficiency levels throughout the system are
far from that goal, and one problem is the lack of critical reading
skills, Spence said.
Contributing factors may include lack of reading academic
programs in high school and difficulties associated with second
language acquisition, he noted.
The Fullerton campus has a number of outreach programs
and classes designed to improve math and English proficiency by
helping both students and teachers improve their skills.
One such program is con-ducted by Harris S.
Schutz, professor of mathematics, in which students attend special
summer math classes.
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