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The Fog of College Readiness: Alarming facts about the CSU EAP/EPT

I originally wrote this report to my local administrators about two years ago to help myself, and hopefully them, understand the correlation between CSU admission standards in English and Fountain Valley High School’s students’ college readiness. This research was done in 2011. Many schools in California are currently implementing an entire curriculum based around the EAP/EPT test given by the CSU system. Based on the research below this may not be the best focus for an entire year’s curriculum.

Background Information on the EAP/SAT and the definition of CSU college-readiness:

  • For the past six years FVHS students score around 55% on the CSU EAP (Early Assessment Program) test given each year to our 11th grade students. This is about the same score for every school with a similar API in Orange County.  I have yet to find a comprehensive high school in Orange County who is scoring consistently higher than anyone else. I’ve been looking at the scores on the state website every year since I was the WASC coordinator six years ago.
  • The CSU EAP is given to all 11th grade students in the form of the annual CST exam and includes a supplemental essay that is given within a month of the CST exam. At FVHS our CP and AP students are traditionally given the supplemental essay and are told about the CST component.
  • Incoming freshmen to the CSU system are deemed “college-ready” in English by the following:
    • Passing the EAP exam in the 11th grade year.
    • Passing an AP English exam with a grade of 3 or higher.
    • Passing the SAT Critical Reading section with a score of 500 or higher.
    • Passing the English section of the ACT with a score of 22 or higher
    • Passing the EPT (English Placement Test) given by the CSU schools on-site before enrollment.
  • Since 2003 our average SAT score for seniors has been between 531 and 539 and about 50% of our seniors have taken the SAT.
  • If students do not show up at the CSU campus with a “college-ready” score, then they are required to take and pay for a three week course in the subject. Ninety-five percent of all students pass the EPT after this three week course.
  • You can find more information about the Early Start Program for students who haven’t passed the EPT here: 
  • Over the last thirty years a first year freshman graduates from a CSU school in six years or less: 50% of the time.

Background on this research topic:

Annalise Winkle and I have been interested in the topic of CSU EAP testing for the past several years. We attended training and information sessions for three days on this subject several years ago.  This year Assistant Principal Kirk Kennedy and I attended an informational meeting on the CSUF campus regarding the EAP and EPT. When I found out that 95% of all students pass the EPT after taking a three week course on their campus I raised my hand and asked, “Can you please distribute the curriculum of this course because I would like to see how you get students prepared to pass this test in three weeks with a 95% pass rate when we have students for four years and can only achieve a 55% pass rate.” This question was met with stony silence. I then asked a follow-up question, “Can you at least show us our student scores disaggregated by multiple choice section and essay component so we can see what we need to work on at the high school level.” This question was answered by an emphatic “No we are not going to do that.” I found this shocking since the college board does this for the AP and SAT test and the entire purpose of the EAP test as stated by the CSU system is to help students see what they need to work on senior year to get ready for the CSU system, but yet they won’t tell the schools where the students need more assistance.

Something smelled rotten.

If the CSUs don’t really care to give us the information we need to prepare our students for college-readiness and success on the EAP and EPT, then perhaps they don’t want students to succeed, and instead want them to take an additional class to generate more revenue.

If that is the case, then perhaps we shouldn’t partake in the EAP program. Perhaps the vast majority of our students are already deemed college-ready by their SAT scores. I felt this was true due to the following:


  • This past fall (2010) CSULB only admitted seven percent of the freshmen who applied. UCLA admitted nine percent. The average GPA for incoming freshmen at CSULB in 2010 was 3.75. While CSULB is not as difficult to win admission as CSUSLO or CSU Pomona, or even CSU San Diego, it is obviously a competitive school for admission, and is only accepting our above average students.
  • Our average SAT score for Critical Reading (CR) is around 535 and students just need a 500 to avoid taking the EPT at the CSU.
  • Therefore our students who were accepted to CSULB should have a very high number of “passing” SAT scores (500 or above).

Perhaps we don’t need to worry about the EAP at all.


Statistical analysis:

  # % of total
FVHS Students who were accepted to CSULB and who requested that official transcripts be sent there (the best sign that we have that students attended CSULB) 89  
Number of students who are CSU college-ready by a SAT exam score of 500+ 48 54%
Number of students who are CSU college-ready by an ACT English score of 22 2 2%
Total # of students who were college ready by SAT and ACT 50 56%
Number of students who did not have a SAT or ACT score recorded at FVHS.  (See note A) 12  
Number of students with a score BELOW 500 or an ACT BELOW 22 27 30%
Number of students who did not have a score of 500+ and also did not re-take the test senior year- according to our records. (See note B) 19 70%
Lowest SAT CR score to be accepted to CSULB 400 (two scores)  
Highest SAT CR score to be accepted to CSULB 690  

*This information was found by going through the test score cards of all graduates from 2010. It took about five hours. It would be nice if this information was available on Illuminate.

Note A: One of the students with no scores has a sister currently attending FVHS. I asked her to talk to her sister about the missing scores. She told me her sister scored a 580 on the SAT and a 4 on her AP exam. I’m not sure why her scores were missing from our records. The registrar also told me that sometimes if students don’t mark in the school information correctly then the SAT scores are not sent to FVHS.

Note B: One student with a non-passing score took the test sophomore year but didn’t retake the test junior or senior year.

Additional Survey regarding SAT at FVHS (From six senior CP classes and one AP senior class)

Total students surveyed 197 28
How many students took the SAT? 128 (65% took the test) 28 (100% took it)
Of those who DID take the SAT how many bought a study guide? 39 (30%) 20 (71%)
Of those who DID take the SAT how many bought attended a study class or workshop? 28 (22%) 15 (54%)

Initial Findings or Questions from David Theriault:


  1. I am shocked that more of our CP students who have a high GPA and are accepted to the CSU system don’t have a score above 500 on the Critical Reading section of the SAT.
  2. Unless our records are wrong, very few of our students retake the test senior year, even though they were close to a passing score of 500 on the SAT CR test.
  3. Too few of our CP seniors take the SAT test, and far too few of them taking the test do any studying for the test in the form of a study guide or class.
  4. Very few of our CP students take the ACT.
  5. I think very few of our sophomores and juniors know about the SAT 500 standard or ACT 22 standard and that it will get them out of a remedial class at the CSU school.
  6. We still need to make the EAP available to our junior students because if they pass it they won’t have to take the remedial course. Maybe if students bring in a SAT form showing a score of above 500 on the CR test we can excuse them from the EAP test (although this will alter our pass rates)
  7. What are we doing as an institution to get students ready for the SAT?
  8. You can find out more about the ERWC curriculum here. 
  9. Personally I think we would be serving our students better if we focused on improving our students SAT Critical Reading score by either including a short unit during the school year or creating after-school or saturday SAT prep sessions. Not only will this help our students avoid the EAP/EPT problem, but it will raise their SAT scores which can assist in getting into a better college and getting more money for college.
  10. Lastly, where in the ERWC curriculum is there room for Inquiry Based Learning, Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Habits of Mind, (a PDF curriculum of Habits of Mind) Student Choice, Google 20% or Genius Hour projects (example from Sean Ziebarth) My own 150 point project – My end of the year senior project etc… It’s pretty limiting.

150 Point Project 2011

A picture from one of my 150 point projects- This would be difficult to achieve with the ERWC curriculum. 

Please post your comments and thoughts below. Thanks.


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