First post on California’s Early Assessment Program

October 21st, 2009

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

California’s Early Assessment Program (EAP) has been cited as a potential model for other states hoping to align their high school standards and assessments with the placement expectations of their postsecondary institutions, and for sending students early signals about their preparedness to enter college without remediation in English and mathematics. Begun through partnership between the California State University (CSU), the California Department of Education and the California State Board of Education, California lawmakers also recently provided for the state’s community colleges to voluntarily participate in the EAP beginning this academic year.

The next several blog posts will explore how EAP tests are offered in grade 11 in English language arts and mathematics, what this means for student participation, and how this relates to the missions of different postsecondary institutions in California—all important issues with implications for other states that might wish to adapt the EAP to their own contexts. These posts will draw from EdSource’s November 2008 report, High School to Community College: New Efforts to Build Shared Expectations.

First, some background on the EAP is important. Offered for the first time in spring 2004, the EAP enabled CSU to provide California high school students with early feedback—during the summer before their senior years—about their preparedness for college-level classes in English and math. By giving high school students one year to become better prepared if needed, EAP developers hoped to reduce the proportion of incoming CSU students who need remediation in these subjects.

The developers of the EAP found that CSU’s placement expectations and the state’s K-12 standards for English and mathematics were aligned, but that CSU’s placement tests and the state’s high school assessments—the California Standards Tests (CSTs)—did not always emphasize the same things. The solution: give 11th graders the option to take expanded versions of CSTs in English and math. This decision avoided the need to develop yet another set of tests and standards to which students and teachers would need to respond.

The EAP has three components:

  • Augmented versions of certain CSTs in grade 11. Students who do well on an EAP test are considered on track to be ready for college and are exempted from placement testing in English and/or math at CSU. In mathematics, students can also receive a “conditional” exemption from placement testing that is contingent on an additional year of mathematics during their senior year of high school.
  • Assistance for students in grade 12 who need additional preparation, including additional coursework in English language arts and online services in mathematics. For example, the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) is designed to help high school students develop as readers and writers of exposition, analysis, and argument—skills that will be expected frequently in college courses.
  • Professional development for high school teachers to build their capacity to improve students’ college readiness, including preparation to teach the ERWC.

In the next post, we will take a closer look at how the EAP test is offered in English language arts. Subsequent posts will examine how EAP tests are offered in mathematics, and what this means for California’s recent expansion of the EAP to include voluntary participation by the state’s open-access community colleges.

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