Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2001-02 Budget Bill

Collaborative Academic Preparation Programs

In recent years, the state has established several new programs and expanded others to encourage the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) to work more intensively with high schools and community colleges. The primary purpose of these programs is to help prepare students for university-level work. The 2001-02 Governor's Budget proposes a total of $20.4 million for three of these existing programs, an augmentation of $10.1 million. Of the $10.1 million, the budget proposes $8 million for the CSU/K-12 Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative (CAPI), $1 million for the Diagnostic Writing Service (DWS), and $1.1 million for the Articulation System Stimulating Inter-Institutional Student Transfer (ASSIST) program. (The budget also includes $8 million for the Student Academic Partnership program, which we discuss in our section on K-12 after school programs).

These types of programs address some of the concerns we raised in our recent report on precollegiate education in California, which we summarized in the preceding crosscutting issue. In this report, we recommend CSU and UC make more concerted efforts to work with high schools to better communicate their entry-level expectations and to allow students to obtain sooner information on their preparedness for college-level studies. We also note that the universities are currently not held accountable for providing high-quality academic assistance to high school students and their teachers as well as first-time freshmen who are not yet prepared for college-level work. We therefore recommend the Legislature require the universities to track and report on the effectiveness of these programs so it can determine if future appropriations are warranted.

Track Promising Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative

We recommend the Legislature approve the $8 million the Governor's budget requests to expand the Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative program but adopt supplemental report language requiring California State University to report annually on the program's effectiveness.

The 1999-00 Budget Act provided CSU with $9 million to establish the CAPI program. Of this amount, the act designated $5 million for the Faculty-to-Faculty Alliance program and $4 million for the Learning Assistance program. In the Alliance program, CSU English and mathematics faculty form partnerships with high school English and mathematics teachers. The CSU faculty provide high school teachers with various types of training, ranging from one-day Saturday workshops to week-long summer conferences. In the Assistance program, CSU students provide tutoring services in writing and mathematics to high school students (most of whom are juniors). In both of these programs, the CSU partners with those high schools that send large proportions of students to CSU campuses needing remediation in English and mathematics.

Collaborative Program Might Improve Academic Preparation for Higher Education. The Governor's budget requests $8 million to expand the CAPI program from the existing 134 high school partnerships (formed with 19 of CSU's 22 campuses) to 223 high school partnerships. (This represents 25 percent of all high schools.) Among current partnerships, a total of 413 CSU students are tutoring high school students, and a total of 231 CSU faculty members are working with 1,128 high school teachers.

The CSU Should Evaluate Academic Outcomes. Given the program is relatively new and the participation rate is high, we recommend the Legislature approve the augmentation but adopt supplemental report language relating to the program's effectiveness. Specifically, the Legislature should require CSU to track:

In sum, we recommend the Legislature approve the $8 million the Governor's budget requests to expand the CAPI program because the program is currently attracting high participation from CSU and high school faculty. We further recommend the Legislature adopt supplemental report language requiring CSU to develop a program assessment tool and to report annually, beginning December 1, 2002, on student achievement and teacher improvement in the targeted high schools.

Approve Expansion of DWS

We recommend the Legislature approve the $1 million the Governor's budget requests to expand the Diagnostic Writing Service because it has the potential to improve students' academic preparation for higher education.

The Governor's budget requests $1 million for CSU to expand the DWS. In 1999-00 and 2000-01, CSU provided approximately $200,000 annually from both discretionary and CAPI program funds to maintain the DWS. The DWS allows high school students to practice the essay portion of CSU's English Placement Test (EPT) and UC's Subject A exam. The primary purpose of the program is to allow students to assess their readiness for college-level writing while still in high school and to communicate more clearly to high school faculty the entry-level writing expectations of university faculty.

The CSU began the DWS as a pilot program in fall 1998—allowing juniors in six high schools to respond to selected essay questions previously asked on the EPT and Subject A exam. In fall 1999, CSU released the program on the Internet. During 1999-00, more than 8,500 high school students submitted essays (either electronically or in paper form) in response to one of three EPT essay questions. More than 5,600 high school students submitted essays in response to one of five Subject A essay questions. Faculty from CSU and UC (and some high schools and community colleges) grade the essays. (They are paid using state funds appropriated for the CAPI program.) The faculty then provide diagnostic statements identifying strengths and weaknesses to participating students and their teachers. Based upon these statements, students can identify whether they are prepared for college-level coursework and teachers can adapt their instructional plans to better meet students' needs.

We recommend the Legislature approve the $1 million the Governor's budget provides to expand the DWS because it allows high school students to identify earlier whether they are prepared for college-level writing and high school faculty to better understand universities' entry-level writing expectations. Although we recommend approving the augmentation, we further recommend the Legislature encourage CSU and UC to work with high schools to streamline the existing assessment process. For example, rather than administering segment-specific placement exams—such as the EPT and the Subject A exam—CSU and UC might use students' scores on existing high school assessment exams—such as the Golden State Exams or the 11th grade Standards-Aligned STAR exam to determine if students are adequately prepared for college-level coursework.

The ASSIST Program Should Be Enhanced

We recommend the Legislature approve the $1.1 million the Governor's budget requests for the Articulation System Stimulating Inter-Institutional Student Transfer program but adopt budget bill language to ensure the system is as effective as possible.

The ASSIST program, established in 1985 at UC Irvine, initially provided community college counselors and students with access to articulation agreements via computer. In 1996, ASSIST provided its information on the Internet at no charge. The ASSIST goal is to allow students who access the Web site to identify all community college courses that satisfy CSU's and UC's general education requirements as well as specific requirements relating to certain majors (such as engineering) and specialized programs (such as nursing).

The current-year budget includes a total of $1.3 million for the California Community Colleges (CCC) ($589,000), CSU ($360,000), and UC ($360,000) to update and maintain the ASSIST database. (In addition to this amount, UC provides approximately $180,000 from university funds to maintain current operations.) The 2001-02 Governor's Budget requests an augmentation of $1.1 million to improve the technical infrastructure of ASSIST's online services and provide additional staff to update course articulation data more frequently. Because ASSIST is the only viable statewide database that provides transfer information to community college students, we recommend the Legislature approve the augmentation.

We further recommend that the Legislature require the CSU and UC to honor articulation agreements ASSIST posts online. Occasionally, the ASSIST Web site displays some articulation agreements that are outdated. This can frustrate students who rely on the information to determine the community college courses they need to complete for CSU and UC credits. If the segments had to honor all agreements ASSIST displays online, CSU and UC would have a stronger incentive to provide ASSIST with timely, accurate, and comprehensive information on articulation agreements. They would also have an incentive to ensure ASSIST appropriately updates its Web site.

Consequently, we recommend the Legislature adopt the following budget bill language in Item 6440-001-0001:

The Articulation System Stimulating Inter-Institutional Student Transfer (ASSIST) program is to provide free access on the Internet to all current articulation agreements between the community colleges, CSU, and UC. It is the intent of the Legislature that CSU and UC honor all articulation agreements posted by ASSIST on its Web site.

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