Posts published on April 8, 2010

How A Locality Can Design An Effective College Readiness Strategy

Guest blogger Katheryn Horton



California State University trustees have put their collective foot down: No longer will remedial math or English be a part of the university system’s regular course offerings. Starting in 2012, students who fail to place in college-level courses after taking the CSU English and math placement exams must take CSU-developed courses during their senior year in high school, or online in summer school before starting college their freshman year.


Twenty-eight percent of Sonoma County students who entered into a CSU school in 2008 had to take remedial math and 32 percent had to take remedial English. The statewide percentages, to provide perspective, were 37 percent and 40 percent respectively). These numbers, now more than ever, present a certain challenge to our high schools.


This change at CSU will push high schools to better target those students who are not yet prepared for college. One way to asses this is through the optional college readiness assessment high school juniors take to find out if senior-year remediation is necessary. High schools also must develop a school-wide plan to assure that students are, in fact, academically ready for the rigors of college.


Over the past five years, the subject of college/workforce preparedness has been on the front burner for Sonoma County educators, who are attempting to better connect the K-12 system with the state college and university systems. The Sonoma County Office of Education, in partnership with Sonoma State University, is training English teachers in CSU-directed curriculum that addresses college preparedness. To date, 43 high school teachers in the county have received intensive training in CSU’s expository reading and writing course.


Additionally, teachers from across local educational segments – K-12, Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State and UC Davis – have been meeting monthly for the past three years to analyze student transition data and design interventions that may positively impact student achievement.


One innovation that emerged from the math group is a summer “Jump-Start to College-Level Math” course, which is offered free to graduated seniors who are planning to attend SRJC in the fall. Students take the SRJC math placement test before and after a two-week intensive program. Results are promising: Every student last summer raised his or her score on the placement test enough to place in the next level math class offered.


Regional instructors in English and science also meet monthly. These groups also are finding gaps and developing interventions to help the students in our region.


Finally, the Sonoma County Office of Education and Santa Rosa Junior College invested seed money this year to develop a program to strengthen the college-going culture in all of the county’s K-12 schools. Last November, the presidents of both Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College signed documents that promise the opportunity of a college education to every student in a Sonoma County school district that takes part in the program.


In the next few years, many regional students will have the opportunity to sign a pledge in sixth through ninth grades stating that they agree to take rigorous coursework throughout high school, engage in tutoring as needed and participate in all college meetings, activities and field trips their school will offer. Sonoma State, in return, promises that all students who fulfill the pledge will receive automatic entrance. Santa Rosa Junior College promises one-on-one facilitation and access to full-tuition scholarships and financial aid.


No doubt, CSU’s move to push remediation back into the high schools will create a greater need to adjust some existing college prep courses, offer new college-prep courses and better identify those students who assess as “not yet prepared” on the college-readiness assessment. But thankfully, a great number of Sonoma County educators are already moving in a direction to effectively take on this charge. What is needed next is more resources to support these important changes.


Katheryn Horton is an educational consultant from Santa Rosa.This content was originally published in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on March 28, 2010.