President's Office

From the President's Desk March 29 1996

March 29, 1996


As I have previously reported, the CSU Board of Trustees passed a remedial education policy in January 1996 reaffirming the CSU's commitment to access and quality. More recently, the CSU has published systemwide statistics on the readiness of CSU students for college level English and mathematics. The data confirm that about half of the students regularly admissible to the CSU require remedial writing and mathematics courses and underscore the importance of the Board's mandate for the CSU to be intensely engaged in improving learning outcomes for students who wish to enter the University.

The policy specifies that by the year 2001, standards, assessment, and early intervention programs to improve students' academic performance will be in place. It also establishes a goal that no more than 10 percent of entering freshmen will require remedial education by the year 2007.

At Northridge, the number of students who require developmental mathematics and writing is, as has been reported in the media, among the highest in the system and has been increasing since 1991. We have acknowledged that many otherwise qualified and talented students arrive on campus without requisite skill levels in these two areas to succeed at Cal State Northridge. Our elementary and secondary schools, and our future students, are struggling with a variety of challenges that are reflected in these statistics. Our posture has been to understand that the statistics are less important than the lives and human potential they represent. We also know, as I have stated many times, that students who require remedial courses are not remedial students. We remain confident that, in partnership with the schools, we can play a continuing role in preparing the next generations to participate fully, and competently, in our society.

At Northridge, we began to institute several strategies to improve student preparedness in the Fall of 1994. We firmly believe that we can improve our students' chances for success through changes in pedagogy and in our internal systems. At the same time, we have entered into a partnership with K-12 schools and community colleges in the greater Los Angeles area to achieve Chancellor Barry Munitz's goal "to eliminate the need for remedial education for the next generation." Some of our recently initiated efforts include:


Short-Term Strategies

Innovative Teaching

Mathematics - A collaborative group approach and the recent introduction of Academic Systems software, an interactive computerized algebra program, have proven to be effective pedagogies to improve student performance in developmental mathematics. Recent data indicates that the performance in General Education mathematics courses by students who have completed remedial coursework on our campus compares favorably to students who enter the University ready for college-level coursework in mathematics. Additionally, the students who have successfully completed the developmental mathematics coursework have an 84% retention rate after the completion of three semesters, as opposed to a 61% retention rate for those who have not.

Technology Now - Since its inception in Fall 1995, the program has provided incoming freshmen in all levels of writing classes with the tools to use electronic mail systems and word processing, while developing basic skills in grammar and composition. Early qualitative data indicate that students enrolled in the program are improving their writing skills.

Changes in Testing

The previous CSU policy required first-time freshmen to take ELM and EPT by the completion of their first semester. In the past, many students completed the placement tests after they enrolled and as a result registered in classes in which they could not be successful. In 1994, we began an enrollment and advisement program that required students to take placement tests prior to enrolling in classes. At the same time, we increased the number of demand tests for students and provided local scoring of these tests. Last month we provided ELM and EPT testing in local high schools for the first time. As a result of these changes, advisors have test results early enough to ensure that students are placed in appropriate classes.

Changes in Advisement

We have instituted three important changes in our advisement program. First, students requiring developmental courses must enroll in them. This policy has resulted in an increase in freshman enrollment in mathematics courses from 39.1% in Fall 1993, to 61.9% in Fall 1995; in writing courses, freshman enrollment increased from 58.4% in Fall 1993, to 85% in Fall 1995. We are working to improve advisement so that these percentages move closer to 100% by 2001.

Second, all entering freshmen are required to meet with their advisors to plan their programs. The objective, in addition to assigning students to remedial or developmental courses they might need, is to place students in regular classes for which they are fully prepared and able to be successful. Delivering advisement information electronically provides real-time test results to advisors, allowing them to better assist students with course selections.


Long-Term Strategy

K-16 Partnership- Cal State Northridge is working with local high schools to improve student performance in mathematics, both in their high school classes and on the ELM exam. Meetings have been held with administrators, counselors and mathematics teachers at Grant, Van Nuys, and Granada Hills high schools, with a meeting planned for Monroe High School. Efforts to raise awareness of the significance of the ELM for college-bound students include informing parents, providing copies of the ELM practice test booklet to faculty, reviewing the content of the test in relationship to the curriculum, providing data about the success of recent high school graduates from each school, giving the test to high school juniors and seniors, and exploring the possibility of conducting a preparation course for secondary school students in the School of Education's summer program.

We have met with the Presidents of the area Community Colleges in the Tri-Valley Alliance, and are planning a meeting with local superintendents and community colleges to develop a more formal, long term collaboration that can lead to sustained improvements in student preparation and define required changes in the community colleges and Cal State Northridge.

AUTEC - The All University Teacher Education Council (AUTEC) has been working to improve collaboration among the education faculty, the departments that provide undergraduate preparation for teachers, and the K-12 community. Recently AUTEC encouraged a renewal of the Liberal Studies major to provide California's teachers with the strongest possible undergraduate foundation. The Liberal Studies Program is a major commitment by the University to the preparation of California's elementary school teachers. This renewal effort is aimed at providing a stronger connection between the undergraduate experience and the professional requirements of teachers, support for innovative curriculum and pedagogy, and attracting and recruiting the very best undergraduate students to teaching careers.

Cal State Northridge will continue to work closely with our K-12 partners to improve the readiness of incoming freshmen. Our initial efforts are demonstrating strong potential, and I am confident that we will make progress toward achieving the goals set by the CSU Trustees. I encourage all faculty and staff to find ways to contribute to these efforts.

While these efforts focus on student readiness when they enter the University, we are also cognizant of the need to continually reassess and improve our curriculum, practices and policies to serve students well during their progress toward a degree. The Strategic Planning Process has been extremely helpful in supporting the reform of General Education, creating a more formal assessment process and allocating resources so that needed classes are provided in the curriculum. These, and other good ideas that will emerge from area level Strategic Planning in the fall, will help to assure our students that we will assist them to achieve high standards of accomplishment as rapidly as they desire.



April is "California Earthquake Preparedness Month." This campaign has been conducted statewide since 1985 and is accepted as the annual opportunity for organizations to focus on earthquake and disaster preparedness. As part of this campaign, the university will be conducting a series of evacuation drills throughout the month of April. The drills will be conducted according to the following schedule:


Date: April 19, 1996
Time: 10:40 a.m.
Buildings to be evacuated:
Art&Design Center
Physical Education
UPA 14
UPA 15
North LIbrary Annex
Date: April 23, 1996
Time: 10:40 a.m.
Buildings to be evacuated:
Speech Drama
Magaram Center
Sierra South
Faculty Office Building
University Club
Date: April 30, 1996
Time: 10:40 a.m.
Buildings to be evacuated:
Science 1-4
Student Health Center
Chisholm Hall
Student Union

Floor and Building Wardens will be available to advise participants, assist with the evacuations and announce the "all clear" when the drill has concluded. Building occupants should take a few minutes prior to the drills and review the campus Emergency Procedures. These reference guides are posted in all classrooms and offices and contain specific instructions that should be followed during a campus emergency.

I appreciate the cooperation of all faculty, staff and students in helping us stay prepared for emergencies. For additional information on California Earthquake Preparedness month, or any other emergency preparedness issues, please feel free to contact Ron Norton in the Environmental; Health and Safety Office at extension 2401.


I am delighted to congratulate the campus community on an outstanding collaborative effort leading to the success of the University's Open House held this last Saturday, March 23, 1996. The Open House, a campus wide event coordinated by the office of Student Outreach and Recruitment, hosted 3,500 prospective students and their families.

The purpose of this program is threefold: 1) to impress upon potential new students and their families that Cal State Northridge is a quality institution committed to academic excellence, student centeredness, and the holistic development of students through diversity; 2) to impress upon eligible students who are in the process of selecting a college that Northridge is the right place for them; and 3) to increase the enrollment yield of newly admitted undergraduate students for fall 1996 through personal contact .

This year's Open House provided parents and students with a greater understanding of the upcoming transition activities such as the importance of taking the English Placement Test and Entry Level Mathematics examinations, the need for early academic advisement, the timely completion of the financial aid and housing processes and details about the Orientation program.

The University Open House is an example of the positive outcomes created by campus wide collaboration and a spirit of cooperation. We thank all of those individuals who proudly conveyed the message to our prospective undergraduate students that Cal State Northridge is "Where You Belong."


In an open meeting of the North Campus Board of Directors on March 25, 1996, the development firm of Cousins/Hopkins was selected as the University partner for future development of the North Campus property. We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the developers who responded to our request for proposals. Each of the proposals offered exciting opportunities for providing facilities and generating revenue to support the educational mission of the campus.The selection of Cousins/Hopkins will be submitted to the CSU Board of Trustees for their approval.

The selection of a development firm does not mean that there has been a decision by the Board on a firm plan of development. The task of the firm will be to work with the North Campus Board, University officials and interested community groups to design a development plan that will serve the interests of the University and the community. Final determinations regarding the football stadium will be considered among the many possible uses for the 65 acre parcel in the development of a master plan for the property.

We wish to thank all of the member of the campus community who participated in the presentations and discussions regarding this decision. Your questions and concerns were important in the difficult deliberation process. We will continue to keep you advised of the master planning for the development and will make sure that future planning continues our practice of encouraging public comment and consultation.


The 1996 Spring Community Forum will take place on April 10, 1996 at the University Student Union in the Grand Salon. We have scheduled two sessions, one starting at 11:30 a.m. and one starting at 1:00 p.m., so that faculty, staff and students will have the opportunity to attend. If there are specific issues you would like to discuss at the Forum, please feel free to contact my office or send me an e-mail, in advance of the forum, so that we will be sure to address them.

I look forward to seeing you on April 10th.

Blenda J. Wilson