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CSU’s First Steps Toward Improving Graduation Rates Have Impact

In her first blog post of 2019, our founder Pamela Burdman reveals the good news in data CSU recently shared with Just Equations: As of last fall, the system had succeeded in eliminating traditional remedial courses. Just Equations awaits more data from CSU to answer more questions about math opportunity for California students.

MEDIUM — In 2017, California State University leaders garnered both criticism and praise when they first announced their plan to phase out remedial courses. Not to mention a dose of skepticism — after all, it had been more than two decades since CSU’s trustees first announced their intent to end remedial education. At that point, despite a decades-long effort, more than a third of entering students were still taking remedial math courses in the summer or fall of their freshman year.

Now, CSU has finally reached its goal, thanks to revised policies. Data that CSU recently shared with Just Equations affirms that, as of last fall, the system had succeeded in eliminating traditional remedial courses. For the first time in decades, all new freshmen were assigned to credit-bearing, college-level math courses.

Key to this dramatic change are two shifts in policy: First, the system altered the way it determines whether students need to brush up on math in order to succeed in a college-level course. CSU eliminated placement tests with questionable validity, instead relying on high school performance, a more reliable predictor of students’ performance in college-level math. This approach is also likely to be more equitable, given research showing that disadvantaged students often perform below their capacity on standardized tests.

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