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WHOA! DUDE! : Nearly 80 Percent of California High School Juniors Aren’t College Ready in English; 45 Percent Fall Short in Math

"We must make our high schools more rigorous if we want our students to be prepared."

Based on results from recent tests, nearly 80 percent of high school juniors are not ready for college English, according to California State University (CSU) officials. The results were a little better in math, with 45 percent of juniors posting scores too low to be considered college ready.

“The scores reveal what we’ve been saying all along,” Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, told the Sacramento Bee. “We must make our high schools more rigorous if we want our students to be prepared.”

CSU officials developed the test after recognizing that nearly half of the students in last fall’s incoming college freshman class were not proficient in English and nearly 40 percent were not proficient in math. Remedial courses in these subjects cost the university system close to $30 million last year.

The new test, called the Early Assessment Program, was a part of the annual statewide assessment exam and included an additional fifteen language arts questions, fifteen math questions, and an essay. The questions were developed by CSU faculty who wanted to test students on geometry, algebra II, and writing skills in more depth than does the statewide assessment.

Students taking the statewide assessment were able to elect to participate in the additional questioning. Of the 385,000 high school juniors who were enrolled in public schools, over 150,000 choose to answer the additional English questions and 115,000 opted to answer the math questions. Officials hope that by identifying learning gaps during the junior year, students can improve their performance during their senior year.

Knowing that much more work needs to be done to prepare high school students for college, CSU leaders have pledged to work with high school teachers to more closely align what students learn in high school and what they need to know to succeed at the college level. CSU faculty have also created a senior-level English class that focuses on critical thinking and writing, as an alternative to current courses that center on literature but often lack a component to teach the skills needed for college writing.

“High Schoolers Fall Short, CSU Learns,” is available at


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