First-Time Freshmen Continue to
Improve in Math Proficiency
by Dave Reid
From Dateline (February 19, 2004)
Last fall’s freshman class demonstrated
increased proficiency in both mathematics and English, according
to a report released this month by the California State University.
Nearly three-quarters of first-time freshmen
in fall 2003 were deemed math proficient after passing the Entry-Level
Mathematics test taken prior to enrollment to the university.
The 71.3 percent proficiency reflects a continuing
increase every year since 1997 when 46 percent of the campus’s
freshmen displayed math proficiency. Systemwide, the proficiency
average for 2003 is 63 percent.
Just over 50 percent of freshmen entering the
university last fall were English proficient, a jump from 47.6 percent
in 2002 but still lagging behind the systemwide average of 52 percent.
“We’re pleased with the progress
we’re making in math proficiency,” said Ephraim Smith,
vice president of academic affairs. “It’s a reflection
of the work our faculty members are doing in outreach programs that
are enhancing teachers’ math skills and helping high school
“English proficiency is more of a challenge.
Probably one of the reasons is that English is a second language
for about 48 percent of our students,” said Smith, referring
to a statistic, about language spoken at home, from the Student
Needs and Priorities Survey conducted by Institutional Research
and Analytical Studies. Throughout the CSU, about 40 percent of
students come from households where English is not the main language
spoken. “We are happy, however, that our English proficiency
rate for 2003 has improved over the previous year,” Smith
In terms of overall CSU rankings, Fullerton’s
math proficiency score tied for second place with Cal State Chico
and Cal Poly Pomona. The campus’s English proficiency ranked
among the top six CSU campuses. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo led all
campuses with 94 percent math proficiency and 86 percent English
The CSU’s goal is to have all first-time
freshmen achieve a 90 percent proficiency in both math and English
Students who don’t pass the English Placement
Test or Entry Level Math are
required to attend remedial classes prior to re-enrollment. Ninety
percent of Fullerton students who enrolled in 2002 and needed remediation
for either math or English gained full proficiency before the second
To improve proficiency levels at a faster pace,
juniors at California high schools will be encouraged to take a
mini-college competency exam in connection with the California Standards
Test in March, noted system officials. Students who fail will have
a year to improve or face remedial college courses.
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