Freshmen entering the Cal State University system rank in the top one-third of their high school classes. But a measure of how low the bar has dropped is that last fall more than half the incoming freshmen were unprepared for college-level math and just under half weren't ready for college English courses.
As the university system that trains most of the state's K-12 teachers, Cal State is partly to blame for its high burden of remedial students, but since last spring the system has been part of the solution as well. That's when Cal State campuses in Hayward, San Diego and San Jose began administering basic skills exams at nearby high schools to identify students' learning deficits so correction could be done before they got to college.
Now, professors at Cal State's new Channel Islands campus in Camarillo are going a step further, working with nearby Santa Paula High School to offer not only testing but coaching to ensure that college-bound students pass the Cal State proficiency exams while still in high school.
All sides gain from Cal State's outreach. The partnership with Santa Paula High School, for instance, will develop a continuing flow of qualified students onto the new Camarillo campus--especially Latino students, who are a majority in the region but an underrepresented minority in the university system.
Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed, while reaching out to help, has been careful not to let high schools and their students escape responsibility. Earlier this year, he began posting proficiency test scores from high schools statewide on the Cal State Web site, whose address is www.asd.calstate.edu/performance. That's the right approach, lending a hand to high schools while keeping them under critical scrutiny.