Early Assessment Program testing in mathematics

Posted by guest blogger Matthew Rosin, senior research associate, EdSource (Mountain View, CA).

This is my third post on California’s Early Assessment Program (EAP), which was developed by California State University (CSU) and California’s K–12 leaders to provide high school students with early signals about their college readiness. The previous post focused on how EAP testing is offered to high school juniors in English language arts. It discussed the single California Standards Test (CST) for grade 11 English language arts, which virtually all high school juniors in the state take. These 11th graders may voluntarily participate in the EAP in English by taking an expanded version of the CST.

This post focuses on how EAP testing is offered in mathematics, and what this means for student participation in the program.

California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program does not administer a single CST to 11th graders in mathematics, as is the case in English language arts. Typically beginning in grade 8, the math course in which a California student is enrolled in a given year determines which state math test the student takes. This means high school juniors take different math CSTs depending on how far along they are in their study of mathematics.

The EAP in mathematics is offered through expanded versions of two math CSTs:

  • The Algebra II CST. California high school juniors take this CST if they are enrolled in an Algebra II course. About 25% of the state’s 11th graders took the Algebra II CST in 2009, according to the California Department of Education.
  • The Summative High School Math CST. This test targets California’s most accelerated math students. Students take this test only in the years after they have completed Algebra II. In other words, only 11th graders who completed Algebra II by no later than the end of grade 10 take this test. About 22% of the state’s 11th graders took the Summative High School Math CST in 2009.

That developers of the EAP focused on these two math CSTs in particular makes sense when considered in light of CSU’s admissions requirements. CSU draws from the top third of high school graduates in California and students must complete Algebra II to be eligible for admission.

For the EAP, each of these two CSTs is augmented with 15 additional questions covering topics in Algebra II and Geometry. For the purpose of assessing students’ readiness for college, CSU considers students’ success on these additional items, and on about 40 questions from the original CSTs.

Among the 47% of California high school juniors who took one of these two EAP-eligible math CSTs in 2009, the majority participated in the EAP. CSU reports that:

  • 72% of 11th graders who took the Algebra II CST in 2009 participated in the EAP in math. In total, 5% of these students were assessed as “ready for college” and received an exemption from placement testing in mathematics at CSU. Another 20% received a conditional exemption, contingent on taking an additional year of mathematics during their senior years of high school.
  • 82% of 11th graders who took the Summative High School Math CST in 2009 participated in the EAP in math. In total, 21% of these students received an exemption from placement testing in mathematics at CSU, and another 67% received a conditional exemption.

Roughly 53% of California high school juniors were not sufficiently far along in their study of mathematics to take an EAP-eligible CST, however. As EdSource found in its November 2008 report, High School to Community College, there are substantial gaps in the extent to which California 11th graders of different student groups take one of these two math tests. During the 2007–08 school year, according to EdSource’s estimates,

  • 77% of Asian and 50% of white 11th graders took an EAP-eligible CST in math.
  • In contrast, only 33% of Latino and 31% of African American 11th graders did so.

The primary driver behind these gaps is the widely differing rates at which 11th graders from these groups took the Summative High School Math CST in 2007–08. Only an estimated 9% of African American and 11% of Latino 11th graders took this CST compared with 26% of white and 53% of Asian 11th graders. This means that California’s African American and Latino students currently complete Algebra II by the end of grade 10 at substantially lower rates than their peers.

In the next post, we will discuss recent legislation that provided for California’s community colleges to voluntarily participate in the EAP.

This post is adapted from EdSource’s High School to Community College report (Nov. 2008), updated with 2009 testing data.

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