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University News

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 officer.

“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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