In 2001, California State University (CSU) faculty began to develop math and English items to add to the California Standards Tests (CST) that all public high school students take in their junior year. The tests had been designed to help high schools assess their own programs, but they did not predict college success. Augmented versions of the tests were produced to address this issue.
The augmented CSTs were developed as part of the Early Assessment Program (EAP)—a collaborative effort among the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and CSU. The program was designed to determine high school students' readiness to do college-level work in English language arts and math, to provide students opportunities to improve skills during their senior year, and to align the CSU placement standards and the K–12 standards in these subjects.
The augmented CSTs in mathematics include fifteen additional questions designed to measure deeper understanding of higher-level math. The augmented CST in English language arts also contains 15 additional questions, plus a 45-minute essay. These portions of the CSTs are voluntary. Both the math and English tests measure proficiency in areas covered by the state standards. In English, for example, a student must be able to read a passage and understand what is being expressed in a more than superficial way.
Students who pass the augmented English test are exempted from the CSU placement exam that all entering freshmen must take. If they do not pass the test, they are advised to take specific courses during their senior year in high school.
On the math test, there are three possible results: Students who pass are exempted from the CSU math placement exam; those with marginal scores may receive a conditional exemption, requiring them to pass an approved senior-year course; students who do poorly on the CST in their junior year are advised to take another math class. They take the math placement test the summer before they start college to determine whether they will need a remedial course once on campus.
In spring 2006, 158,000 juniors (38% of the total) completed the English EAP, and 25% were judged ready for college work, while 134,000 juniors (72% of the total eligible) completed the math EAP, and 55% were judged ready for college work. Of the approximately 40,000 freshmen admitted to CSU each year, more than 60% need remediation in math, English, or both.