Postsecondary Preparation and Remediation: Examining the Effect of the Early Assessment Program at California State University

Katherine Wilczak

Jessica S. Howell, Michal Kurlaender, and Eric Grodsky
California State University, Sacramento
April 2009

What if you could find out that you aren't academically ready for college when there's still time left in high school to do something about it? That was the goal of the California Early Assessment Program (EAP), administered (voluntarily) to that state's high school students, with an assessment component offered at the end of the junior year. Did it help? Does providing early-warning information really get students better prepared for college? This study examines data from freshmen at California State University's Sacramento campus (CSUS) who were juniors in high school between 2001 and 2005. Since EAP did not become available until the 03-04 school year, this allowed the researchers to compare not only the effect of EAP on the need for remediation but also the effect of EAP on likelihood to enroll in college. On the first count, those who had participated in EAP were 6.2 percentage points less likely to need remediation in English and 4.3 points less likely to need it in math when they attended a typical CSU campus (this in a university system where 60 percent of freshmen require remediation!). Particularly troubling is that all of these remediated CSU freshmen completed the college preparation high school curriculum (i.e. they had presumably taken all the classes they needed to be college-ready) and had an average 3.1 GPA in the remediated subject. On the second point, participation in EAP did not make students more or less likely to apply to CSUS. The authors advise that more research is needed to determine whether EAP changes student behavior senior year by encouraging students who are marginally unprepared ("conditionally exempt" from remediation) to step up their academic game. You can read the report here.