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High School Seniors Need to Knuckle Down, Test Finds

September 21, 2006|Mitchell Landsberg | Times Staff Writer

Most high school juniors in California are probably not ready for college courses, and need to hone their skills in their senior year, according to results of a voluntary statewide test released Wednesday.

The test, developed by the California State University system, showed that more 11th-graders could handle college-level math than English. But full English results were delayed because of a glitch.

Cal State created the Early Assessment Program test out of concern over an alarming number of students who were starting college without basic math and English skills and required costly remedial classes. The first exams were given in 2004.

More students took the test this spring than last year -- 72% of those eligible in math. Of them, 55% scored proficient, meaning they are considered ready for college-level math. That is down from 56% last year, but test administrators said the difference wasn't significant and probably reflected the larger pool of test-takers.

In English, however, only 25% of the 158,000 tests graded so far were scored at the proficient level, up from 24% last year. An additional 60,000 tests were initially not scored because students failed to fill in a bubble indicating they had taken the test.

Cal State spokeswoman Claudia Keith said the students were apparently given confusing instructions, and administrators have decided to score those tests. Results will be available in October.

Keith said she couldn't say with certainty why a sizable minority of students didn't take the tests, but she presumed that many of those who opted out were not college-bound.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell issued a statement focusing on the rise in the number of students taking the test, but not commenting on the results themselves.

"The fact that so many students are thinking about going to college is very encouraging," O'Connell said. "Ultimately, the success of this program will hinge on the extent to which students' senior year is used more effectively so that greater numbers of students are ready for college after high school."

mitchell.landsberg @latimes.com

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