University to force remediation

Infographic by Michael Uribes / The Collegian

Fresno State reported an estimated 60 percent of incoming first-time freshman have not attained college-level proficiency in English or math during high school, requiring them to take remedial courses once they get to the university.

To help lower the number of those who need remediation, the California State University (CSU) board of trustees initiated an “early start” program that will help categorize those students who will need remediation and get them on the path to proficiency before they enter college.

Paul Oliaro, the vice president for student affairs who co-chaired the initiative, said he is hopeful that this early assessment program will lower the percentage of students who are falling behind in the fundamental skills of learning.

Oliaro said math and English remediation is important, because they are lifelong skils.

“Hopefully, this will provide motivation to acquire proficiency in English and math in their high school years,” Oliaro said.

Oliaro said that high school students will be able to take several tests as early as their junior year to determine their proficiency in both English and math. Taking several exams through the Early Assessment Program (EAP), students will learn what subjects they are either deficient or proficient in.

Oliaro said students who do not score 550 or higher on the SAT math, reasoning or critical reading sections will be required to take the entry level math exam or the English placement test to determine if they are proficient.

“All students who are not proficient in math would have to do remediation before enrolling in 2012,” Oliaro said. “In English only, the students most at risk would do it [remediation] by the year 2012. By 2014, all remediation should begin before students enroll.”

Most of the deficient students at Fresno State, Oliaro said, took remediation courses at the university. Under the new system, all students would have to become proficient at their high school or in the summer before enrolling for their freshman year. The program is planned to affect freshman entering in the fall of 2012.

“What it does is put a little more emphasis on preparation in high school,” Oliaro said. “One of the ways students won’t have to worry about taking remedial courses is by being proficient in high school.”

Oliaro said when the program is in full effect, students who do not become proficient after their freshman year will have to look elsewhere for their education.

“If you do not complete remediation in either math or English then you can’t continue at Fresno State,” Oliaro said. “You would then have to go to a community college.”

Oliaro said that one of the goals of this initiative, besides increasing proficiency, is increasing the graduation rates.

“Once this is in place and has a chance to get implemented, it should increase graduation rates,” Oliaro said.

Oliaro said that only 48 percent of Fresno State students graduate in six years or less due to changing of majors, and Fresno State is ahead of the average.

“Fresno State is above average in the CSU [system],” Oliaro said. “We have a whole plan in place to raise our graduation rates by 6 percent, by 2015.”

Vivian Franco, the director of admissions, said that more Fresno State students need remediation than the CSU average, but the faculty and administration have taken the steps to counteract that number.

“In English and math we have been slightly higher than the average systemwide,” Franco said. “But, for remediation we have a 98-percent success rate at the end of one year, so nearly all of our students remediated after one year.”

Franco also said asking high schools and their students to be able to become fully proficient in the summer before entering college is an out-of-reach expectation in these times.

“I think the board of trustees would really like that, but at the same time I don’t think, realistically, we are there yet,” Franco said. “A lot of students are accepting jobs and contributing to their families in these hard economic times.”

Franco said instead the CSU opted to discover what kind of activities can be offered to students in the summer to be ready for university coursework, such as remediation during their freshman years or taking online courses over the summer that will count as remediation.

Stefaan Delcroix, the chair of the mathematics department, said he hopes these measures will greatly reduce remediation, but he remains realistic.

“Sure, I would hope that at some point we will have fewer students [needing remediation], but the reality is that we will need remedial math for a long time,” Delcroix said.

Delcroix said the mathematics department has been doing its part to help in remediation, and students already have options to obtain proficiency at the university.

“We believe that those students who are not ready to do college coursework must be prepared,” Delcroix said. “That’s mostly why we have two kinds of math remediation.”

According to the CSU Web site, 25,000 freshman are required to take remediation courses every year learning things that should have been taught in high school. Also according to the Web site, “the cost in time and money to these students and to the state is substantial.”

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