Program to curb remedial courses

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A new program at CSUN will attempt to alleviate the need for remedial education as proposed by a California State University Remedial Education Policy.

The policy is designed to dramatically reduce the demand for remedial math and English courses to only 10 percent of students in CSUs by 2007.

The Early Assessment Program, adopted by CSUN last year, offers junior high school students a chance to take a version of the Entry Level Math Exam and English Placement Test to demonstrate whether or not they will need to enroll in remedial courses as first-time freshmen at a CSU school.

“(EAP) is a large CSU initiative for early identification of students in high school who need remediation,” said Margaret Fieweger, associate vice president of Undergraduate Studies.

Under EAP, CSUN works in conjunction with high schools that voluntarily administer an augmented version of the California Standards Test and the Standardized Testing and Reporting exam, with a set of 15 optional multiple-choice questions to assess a student’s proficiency.

“CSUN is trying to identify which students need remediation,” said Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost. “Over time, it will reduce the need (for remediation) by helping (high school) juniors realize what they must do to be ready.”

If the student passes the set of questions, he or she will not have to take the ELM or EPT exam, and will be allowed to enroll in regular math or English courses. But, if the high school student does not pass the augmented version of the test, he or she will have to enroll into a math or English course during his or her senior year of high school that is equivalent to the level of remedial courses offered at CSU campuses.

“The goal is to remediate high school students during their senior year,” Fieweger said. “(EAP) is an early assessment (program, and is) effective in lowering the need for high school students to be remediated at the college level.”

CSUN offers a summer workshop for freshmen who did not pass the ELM test, Fieweger said. Students will take the workshop prior to any course enrollment, and pay a fee for a six-week intensive workshop of math exercises with professors. Students who pass the workshop will not have to repeat the ELM test.

Incoming freshmen who do not take the early assessment test during their junior year in high school, will be allowed to take the ELM or EPT exams prior to enrolling at CSUN.

Cristina Torres, freshman music major, said she does not think EAP will help students.

“Not all high schools have the methods to prepare students,” Torres said.

In Fall 2002, 74 percent of CSUN’s 3,675 first-time freshmen needed to enroll in remedial courses. A follow-up on the freshmen who needed remediation showed that one year later, 80 percent of those students gained proficiency, according to CSU proficiency reports.

In Fall 2003, of CSUN’s 3,610 regularly admitted first-time freshmen, 54.6 percent needed math remediation, and 63 percent needed English remediation, according to CSU proficiency reports.

CSUN is among 17 CSU campuses that have participated in EAP. Most of the participating CSU campuses have been enrolled in the new program for two to three years.

The CSU Board of Trustees approved the remediation policy to require first-time freshmen to receive remedial courses in high schools, and then enroll into CSUs fully prepared, Fieweger said.

In 1996, the Board of Trustees adopted the remediation policy to relieve some of the costs of remedial education at CSU campuses, and to reduce the need for remedial education to 10 percent of the incoming freshmen by 2007.

The reduction of remedial education by 10 percent is a system-wide goal, and CSUN alone will not be required to decrease its need for remediation to 10 percent by 2007, Fieweger said.

As of the 2002-03 academic year, the CSU need for remediation system-wide was at 59 percent, and proficiency for those who needed remediation is at 82 percent, according to CSU proficiency studies.

“(I) never thought the policy was a good idea,” Hellenbrand said. “The goal was noble, but little support was provided to get there. For instance, EAP was rolled only last year.”

The impact that EAP may have on CSUN is still not certain.

“We hope it will have an impact, but how great of an impact it is, we don’t know,” said Michael Neubauer, coordinator for the Developmental Math Program.

Fieweger said that the policy deadline was set as a goal that was not meant to be definite. She added that the policy would not be dropped.

“(The policy) is going in the right direction,” Fieweger said.

Spending money on opening up new remedial classes makes it difficult for students to register for classes, Neubauer said.

“Remediation is a bad deal for students,” Neubauer said. “Students are worse off. Resources are going here and not somewhere else.”

“The less remediation we need is better for everyone,” Neubauer said.

When the number of students requiring remedial education is reduced, and the number of remedial courses decreases, students will be able to graduate at a faster pace, Fieweger said.

Many of the CSUs that need developmental courses are located in urban areas, like CSUN, Hellenbrand said.

“L.A. unified and other diverse school districts are economically challenged to provide quality teachers in enough numbers to address those problems,” Hellenbrand said.