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University News

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 students improve.

“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 added.

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 proficiency.

The CSU’s goal is to have all first-time freshmen achieve a 90 percent proficiency in both math and English by 2007.

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 year.

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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