Local Students Struggle to Get Ready for College

The Cal State University system offers an early assessment of math and English skills for juniors. Statewide, a majority of incoming freshmen are not prepared. Locally, numbers trend similarly.

More than 60 percent of all students entering the California State University system are not ready for college-level English and math, and local students appear to be no different, according to recently released test results.

Called the Early Assessment Program, administered by CSU and the state Department of Education to students in their junior year, the tests determine college-readiness, according to the program’s website.

Of the 40,000 first-time college freshmen that enter into the CSU system each year, 25,000 need to take remedial classes, according to the website.

“These 25,000 freshmen all have taken the required college preparatory curriculum and earned at least a B grade point average in high school,” the website explains.

So how do students in the Capistrano and Saddleback Valley unified school districts measure up?

About the same.

Scoring is broken down into three categories: “ready,” “conditional” and “not ready.”

While math scores were divided into these same three categories in 2011, this is the first year it was done for English scores. Last year for English, the scores were merely “ready” or “not ready,” making it difficult to compare precise apples-to-apples.

Capistrano Unified

Only two schools, Aliso Niguel and Tesoro, have English “ready” scores higher than the freshman class as CSU. In math, no school scored higher than a 30 percent “ready” rate.

A CUSD spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Taking all the schools' results and averaging them, this year’s scores have Capistrano Unified students demonstrating pure college readiness in English at 38 percent and in math at 24 percent.

Capo students across the district’s six comprehensive high schools fell into the “not ready” category for English at a rate of 41 percent and at a rate of 26 percent for math.

The rest fall into the “conditional” category. According to the Early Assessment Program, students who score below “ready” but above “not ready,” according to CSU:

... have demonstrated readiness at this point in time for English [or math] at the CSU. However, they will need to take an appropriate English [or math] course in the senior year to ensure that they continue to be ready.

Carolina Cardena, a spokeswoman for CSU, describes the "conditional" designation this way: "At the time the student took the test we felt they were ready for college level work but were close to not being ready, and if they take a year off from taking a rigorous math or English course they would lose the skill in those subject areas."

Juniors who did not pass the English test were placed in an expository reading and writing course this year, according to a memo to the Board of Trustees.

Overall, more Capo seniors across the district are ready for college English than the class that just graduated, 39 percent versus 35 percent. However, they are ready for college math at the same rate of 22 percent for 2012 and 2011.

More students fall into the middle, “conditional” category in math this year than last: 48 percent in 2012 versus 46 percent in 2011.

See the charts below for specific school numbers.

Saddleback Unified

Students from Trabuco Hills are ready for college English at a much greater rate than Saddleback’s three other comprehensive high schools. They clock in with 52 percent of juniors testing ready for college English.

Meanwhile, all the math scores from the four schools have less than a 30 percent ready rate, with Laguna Hills High having the highest at 27 percent.

A SVUSD spokeswoman did not return a reporter’s call.

Calculating the district averages, 38 percent of Saddleback students are college-ready in English, 24 percent in math. While the math rates were the same in 2011, English results dropped from an average of 42 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, the number of students not ready in math dropped slightly, from 28 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2012.

See the charts below for specific school numbers. 

Capistrano Unified  Early  Assessment  Results  2012     School

% English Ready

% English Conditional

% English Not Ready

% Math Ready

% Math 


% Math Not Ready

Aliso Niguel  47  20  33  30  47  23 Capo Valley  32  21   47  21   42  37 Dana Hills  32  19  49  22  47  31 San Clemente  37  21  42  14  57  29 San Juan Hills  40  20  41  18  50  32 Tesoro  45  23  32  27   45  28


Saddleback Valley Unified

 Early  Assessment  Results  2012     School

% English Ready

% English 


% English Not Ready

% Math Ready

% Math 


% Math Not Ready

El Toro  26  21  53  24  52  23 Laguna Hills  35  22  43  27  51  21 Mission Viejo  38  22  40  20  48  32 Trabuco Hills  52  23  25  24  49  27
Desi Kiss November 23, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Joana, your data is outdated as most of our educational systems. We are # 31 in math and # 23 in science in the World. please visit: http://www.ocregister.com/news/science-377306-students-math.html to learn more
Joanna Clark November 24, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Hi Desi, Thank you for catching my mistake. It is much worse than I predicted and only confirms further the point I was trying to make. Our system is broken, and we need to fix it. If a small country like Finland can rank 1st and 2nd in in Math and Science, while offering FREE education to its citizens from preschool through a doctorate-level degree, why can't we? Nationwide, Finland averages less than a 2% drop out rate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics the California freshman dropout rate was 20.1% to 30% during the 2008-09 school year. I consider our failure to provide a quality education for our children unacceptable. We're becoming more like a third-world country every day.
Desi Kiss November 24, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Hello Joanna. Well said. Please keep up the good work. Happy Holidays!
Joanna Clark November 24, 2012 at 06:27 PM
You too, Desi, and best wishes for a Happy and Safe Holiday Season.
College Planner November 24, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Recentering of test scores, watering down of curriculum to inflate GPA's, the choice to make 15-20% of the graduating class "valedictorians" and overall disintegration of consideration and respect of our teens...in our office, we see a sense of entitlement and over estimation of ones ability to thrive in a competitive academic environment.


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