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Investigation

California State University courses with high failure and withdrawal rates prompt calls for reform

Above: Study zone at Cal State Fullerton. CSU system wants to lower high fail rates.

Reforms aim to keep students on track for graduation

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California State University students are failing or withdrawing at high rates from many courses — including chemistry, calculus, English and U.S. history — prompting renewed efforts for systemwide reform.

New attention is being placed on classes that for years have shown failure or withdrawal rates of 20% or more — sometimes reaching as high as half the students. Efforts to overhaul the courses and improve teaching are now seen as a crucial way to help more students pass and graduate.

For example, more than a third of Sacramento State students in some physics, economics, computer science and anthropology classes failed or left those courses. At Fresno State, the same was true in some math, chemistry, criminology and music courses.

When more than 20% of students in a class receive a D, F or withdraw from it, that course is considered to have a high so-called “DFW rate.” Generally, course rates are averaged over three years. Cal State Los Angeles, for example, reports that about 11% of its undergraduate classes have high failure rates. Statistics are similar for the Fresno and Sacramento campuses.

Officials said the problem exists across all 23 campuses.

CSU, which is focused on improving courses with a lot of students, reported 686 high failure courses systemwide last fall with enrollments of at least 100. Campus administrators, however, are looking at smaller classes too, signaling that the problem is likely to be more widespread. Combining statistics from just three campuses — Fresno, Los Angeles and Sacramento — a total of 453 high failure courses were listed.

Challenging course material, ineffective teaching and unprepared or overwhelmed students contribute to the rise in high failure/withdrawal rates, experts say. Failures and repeated attempts to pass can add semesters to students’ time on campus because many of the courses are required for majors. Worse, failing a class can send students into a tailspin that leads to abandoning majors or dropping out altogether.

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro had some success in improving graduation rates at Fresno State, where he previously was president. But that campus still shows 11% of all its courses with high failure statistics.

Since being named system chancellor in January, Castro has put a priority on reducing those high failure and dropout numbers at all CSU campuses, especially in required and introductory courses.

“It’s our goal to make sure that every student that we admit to the CSU has the full opportunity to succeed, to thrive. And it’s about providing the support necessary for them to do that,” Castro said.

Across the CSU system, officials say new efforts are aimed to help more students pass these courses. Courses are being redesigned, teaching improved, tutoring and supplemental instruction expanded – all to propel students to graduation. Among the successes, recent reform of mechanical engineering classes at Cal State Los Angeles cut failure and withdrawals in half, from 32% to 16%.

Student leaders, too, say changes to these courses are important. Isaac Alferos, president of the systemwide California State Students Association, said the group looks forward to working with CSU administrators and faculty “to identify solutions to address classes with high withdrawal and fail rates, understanding that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Officials say that getting more students to pass these classes is key to the university’s plan to significantly improve graduation rates across all campuses and ethnic groups by 2025. The so-called Graduation Initiative 2025 has shown progress since it began in 2015, but more is needed to meet its goals. Recent statistics show that 31% of all freshmen graduate in four years and 62% in six, compared with systemwide targets of 40% and 70%.

A recent report by a Graduation Initiative advisory committee of faculty, staff and students urged the CSU trustees to push for improved pass rates, with an emphasis on helping Black, Latino and low-income students pass these targeted classes. The trustees are expected to discuss the issue next month or soon after.

Particularly in some science and math courses, Black and Latino students on average show significantly higher failure rates than white and Asian students. For example, at Sacramento State, the DFW rate in college algebra was 36% for Latino students, 33% for Black students, 23% for white students and 18% for Asian students.

“While earning a non-passing grade in a course can present a challenge for all students, the interruption and possible impact on time to graduation for students of color is often disproportionally negative,” the report said.

(The DFW rate includes “D” grades because those are not considered passing in many required courses. Withdrawals do not include course drops in the first two or three weeks of semesters.)

Overhauling courses

At Fresno State, 180 courses showed an average failure rate of at least 20% across the past six semesters, according to campus data. Those courses enrolled at least 50 students total during that period.

More than 40 courses had failure rates of at least 30%, and 11 of those were at 40% or more.  The top fail rate, 49.7%, was in an upper-division electrical and computer engineering course focusing on signals and systems.

It’s unclear whether the switch to remote learning during the pandemic affected course failure rates.  Some classes showed worse results and others did better compared to previous in-person teaching.

Meanwhile, some courses have shown improvements credited to changes initiated before the health emergency.

For example, Cal State Los Angeles overhauled five high-enrollment courses with the steepest failure rates, often over 30% of students. Those included basic accounting, chemistry, computer science and economics. After some success, the program is expanding to 30 more courses, officials said.

In mechanical engineering, 32% of the students failed or withdrew in 2018. Then, the course was redesigned to focus more on mastery of skills than memorization. Students were offered more frequent tests with four chances to pass them. Most lectures were switched to online recordings while classes mainly became work sessions divided into groups by achievement levels. Extra tutoring was available.

Cal State Los Angeles professor Mathias Brieu helped overhaul a mechanical engineering class.

As a result, officials say, the failure rate was cut in half by last fall while faculty insist material was not watered down. Professor Mathias Brieu said the redesign has mainly helped students who previously were close to a passing C but unable to reach it. The reworking “has completely changed the atmosphere and our relationships with the students,” Brieu said. “There is a real connection now.”

The four other courses all showed improvement by fall 2020. However, the accounting and chemistry classes still had DFW rates of more than 20%, while economics and computer science moved below that threshold.

Michelle Hawley, Cal State Los Angeles’ associate vice president and dean of undergraduate studies, said she is pleased with the improvement but recognizes the need for more. “I’m not happy with any numbers short of 99.9% pass rate and zero equity gap,” Hawley said, referring to gaps in failure rates among racial and ethnic groups.

At Sacramento State, the failure rates were as high as 45% in digital design and physics and 30% in some philosophy and anthropology courses. Those numbers, and similar ones at other campuses, are “appalling,” said Tina Jordan, Sacramento State’s assistant vice president for strategic success initiatives.

In the past, she said, some professors wore high failure rates with pride, claiming them as a sign of rigor. But she said that attitude has changed as more faculty try to improve their teaching methods, especially with more cultural sensitivity about learning patterns, high school preparation and personal connections with students to help more Black and Latino students.

Sacramento State has expanded supplemental instruction, which offers three or so extra hours of review and test preparation each week. Those sessions are led by paid, specially trained students who aced that course in the past. Thirty courses at Sacramento have had supplemental instruction, and that is expected to double to 60 in this upcoming academic year, according to Jordan.

But participation in supplemental instruction is voluntary, and attendance is low.

Fresno State senior Alejandra Flores led supplemental instruction in a math class.

Alejandra Flores, a Fresno State senior, leads supplemental sessions for Math 45, which fulfills a freshman requirement and emphasizes solving real-world problems. A pre-nursing major, she took the course as a freshman, and “in the beginning, I was scared.” Without the extra help, “I honestly feel I wouldn’t have passed the class.” She got an A.

Officials say that the supplemental hours helped two sections of Math 45 reduce failure rates. However, only about 13 of the 114 students in the sections attended the extra sessions.  Many students report not having enough time, given other courses, work and family responsibilities.

Another strategy is to lower class sizes. That is planned in Fresno’s freshman English composition, a requirement for all. Enrollment caps will be reduced from 25 to 20 students in most sections and to 18 for students who need more help, according to Bernadette Muscat, interim dean of undergraduate studies. The personal attention in a smaller class will be important as courses switch this fall from remote to a blend of online and in-person, she said.

Faculty feeling pressure

A concern among faculty is that they will be pressured to lower standards and inflate grades. But Castro insisted that improvement can be achieved without watering down classes. “It’s about maintaining high standards,” he said.

Throughout the CSU system, professors of classes with high failure rates are being urged by administrators to reconsider teaching methods and possibly retraining. Administrators insist this is not done threateningly. However, some faculty members, while supportive of helping more students succeed, are worried that untenured and part-time professors, in particular, could be pushed by their departments to raise grades no matter what.

The graduation initiative “has created intense pressure to reduce failure rates so that students can graduate, and to reduce the impact of bottleneck classes,” warned a report issued last year by a committee of Fresno State’s Academic Senate. While the report showed no evidence that the recent initiative is causing grade inflation, the authors expressed concerns about a possible “lowering of academic standards and grade inflation.”

Steven Filling, former chair of the CSU’s systemwide Faculty Senate and an activist in the faculty union, said he has no reports of grade inflation but fears it could surface. Grade inflation is “a recipe for ultimate failure and a disservice to our students,” said Filling, an accounting professor at CSU Stanislaus.

Jeff Gold, the CSU system’s assistant vice chancellor for student success, denied there was any pressure to pump up grades. “That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.

He noted that the courses with the highest failure rates now tend to be clustered in the sciences and math, although U.S. history, which requires a lot of reading, has worrisome failure statistics too. Despite these efforts, different failure rates may persist among campuses and between humanities and science courses, according to Gold.  “Our goal is not to focus on absolute numbers, but rather to bring people into the fold about how they can improve curriculum, how they can improve the support of their students so that more of them are successful,” he said.

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  1. John 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The lists are interesting because they show a disparity between universities and philosophies. My son went to CSUN where he did have to repeat the college algebra course (to meet a progress requirement of a B or better). That was driven by linguistics (not a native speaker of English) and a desire to demonstrate self-sufficiency. The first year of University is a transition to a very different learning skillset from that in high … Read More

    The lists are interesting because they show a disparity between universities and philosophies. My son went to CSUN where he did have to repeat the college algebra course (to meet a progress requirement of a B or better). That was driven by linguistics (not a native speaker of English) and a desire to demonstrate self-sufficiency. The first year of University is a transition to a very different learning skillset from that in high school. Online teaching also requires a very different skill set and makes it too easy for the teachers (who may be grad students) to miss the signs from those who need coaching.

    Also concerning is the lack of distribution. Do the universities have a more general issue in specific faculties? For example, why 4th year electrical engineers? Was there a senior project which was allowed to take priority? Should this have been the case in the Covid Years?

  2. Ellarwee Gadsden 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Glancing at the comments one wouldn't know that many of those chronic failed courses aren't about math or science (except algebra and stats). Here's a list: Deductive Logic I Philosophy Anthropology Inductive Logic I World Prehistory Monetary and Fiscal Policy English - John Milton Economics Humanities & Religious Studies English Intro to College Writing Intro to Africana Studies Asian & Asian American Studies Maybe the reasons so many commenters went to the default math and science claim, is the reason so many students are … Read More

    Glancing at the comments one wouldn’t know that many of those chronic failed courses aren’t about math or science (except algebra and stats). Here’s a list:
    Deductive Logic I
    Philosophy
    Anthropology
    Inductive Logic I
    World Prehistory
    Monetary and Fiscal Policy
    English – John Milton
    Economics
    Humanities & Religious Studies
    English Intro to College Writing
    Intro to Africana Studies
    Asian & Asian American Studies

    Maybe the reasons so many commenters went to the default math and science claim, is the reason so many students are failing all of these non-math courses?

  3. Professor Kem 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    As a professor, any form of failure is disheartening and I wish students had the tools and resources to improve their performance. I coach students in Business, History, Psychology, Nursing, and Health care and life sciences. Feel free to contact for consultation. dohkemunto21@gmail.com. Thank you Read More

    As a professor, any form of failure is disheartening and I wish students had the tools and resources to improve their performance. I coach students in Business, History, Psychology, Nursing, and Health care and life sciences. Feel free to contact for consultation. dohkemunto21@gmail.com. Thank you

  4. Ian Espinosa 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Even before everything went online the electrical engineering department at CSULB sucked bad. Now that it’s online instruction, it’s even worse. Engineering was never meant to be taught online and we are getting no labs or hands-on experience now. I want all the grant money and federal money that paid for my classes returned to the state and federal government.

  5. Zapporah 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The math system really needs a revamp, not just in the university system but at a community college level as well. Any math level lower than Calculus is taught online with no zoom interaction or face to face meetings. From my experience and from that of other students, it seems like this is placing a large gap between the level of math most high schoolers come in with and the graduation requirements. From my own … Read More

    The math system really needs a revamp, not just in the university system but at a community college level as well. Any math level lower than Calculus is taught online with no zoom interaction or face to face meetings. From my experience and from that of other students, it seems like this is placing a large gap between the level of math most high schoolers come in with and the graduation requirements.

    From my own perspective, I had a few years between my first year of university and my second. Getting back in to the swing of math was a journey that included failing Calculus 3 times before withdrawing the 4th time. There were no better options for me until I realized that my old AP score on Statistics met the requirement. I still managed to graduate with a 3.5, but I’m still disappointed that I was never able to get back in to math. I used to love it in high school, and was good enough to finish my high school requirements early, complete a college level course in junior year, and graduate halfway thru my senior year. If there were an in-person, or at least actually instructed, pre-calculus class then I think there would be a lot more success in the subject.

  6. Drew 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    You only mentioned a few CSU schools. Also, you did not mention which CSU school is leading the pack in a good way. How did Cal Poly San Luis Obispo fare, for example?

  7. Jennifer A Krause 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Let's address the elephant in the room. A ton of community college teachers weren't teaching during the pandemic or offering live on line classes. They were assigning synchronous work – how are college students suppose to succeed with this lack of live instruction? Plus the Cal State schools remained remote all last year instead of offering in person class last spring. Grateful my daughter is attending school in AZ where instruction is in person! That's … Read More

    Let’s address the elephant in the room. A ton of community college teachers weren’t teaching during the pandemic or offering live on line classes. They were assigning synchronous work – how are college students suppose to succeed with this lack of live instruction? Plus the Cal State schools remained remote all last year instead of offering in person class last spring. Grateful my daughter is attending school in AZ where instruction is in person! That’s where kids learn best!

  8. John 1 month ago1 month ago

    My brother was a teacher in a Stockton. He told me his principal indirectly told him to curve the grades to make the school look good. In the end, no one fails the class.

    Replies

    • Ellen Graham 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      You are exactly right. Ever since standardized testing came in, it’s all about numbers and not education.

  9. Joe 1 month ago1 month ago

    BS, not everyone can handle the tech courses required for engineering, math, advanced econ, computer science, etc. Accept for tenured bad teachers I’d say there is always some level of Darwinism required to put out high quality graduates.

  10. A.D 1 month ago1 month ago

    I’m a nursing student, the problem in my college is our professors not helpful at all. Some of them encouraged students to withdraw, which it happened to me for no reason, instead of encouraging us that you can do it! They say you are not for this career! My classmate got disconnected because of her language barrier. One of our professors told her you don’t understand English therefore you better drop the class, she’s from … Read More

    I’m a nursing student, the problem in my college is our professors not helpful at all. Some of them encouraged students to withdraw, which it happened to me for no reason, instead of encouraging us that you can do it! They say you are not for this career! My classmate got disconnected because of her language barrier. One of our professors told her you don’t understand English therefore you better drop the class, she’s from Korea. They are trying to make the exam as hard as possible, when we have an objection which you didn’t teach or wasn’t mentioned in your lecture, their answer is a good nurse should study everything no matter if we talked about it or not.

    I study at Cypress College but the nursing department needs a lot of changes. Many students dropped the program. They are waiting a lot of the time. We have 2 hour lectures then you have to wait 4 hours on campus for a 1 hour pharmacology class. We are hopping they are going to continue on Zoom, or remote classes because there are lots of material to read & practice.

  11. J Ng 1 month ago1 month ago

    We are coddling our kids in high school. It’s no wonder they are not prepared for college. It starts with more reading and math in high school and less emphasis on diversity.

    Replies

    • Max 1 month ago1 month ago

      The University of California system, as a whole, is just as diverse as the California State system. And the grades there are higher for students. And the very private Stanford University which has more diversity combined with higher rank has grade inflation to the extreme. Yet somehow it excels. Blaming diversity for the problems at Cal State which admits people on straight forward race neutral index scores makes as much sense … Read More

      The University of California system, as a whole, is just as diverse as the California State system. And the grades there are higher for students. And the very private Stanford University which has more diversity combined with higher rank has grade inflation to the extreme. Yet somehow it excels. Blaming diversity for the problems at Cal State which admits people on straight forward race neutral index scores makes as much sense as blaming the blue sky for a sunny day.

  12. Nick Dermott 1 month ago1 month ago

    Perhaps the problem isn't the classes? Perhaps it is that thousands of students graduating from California High Schools don't belong in a 4-year university? Perhaps California should focus on its failing k-12 system and leave the universities alone to students that belong there due to their proficiency in basic math and English. This didn't seem to be a problem 30 years ago or even 20. That it is a problem now … Read More

    Perhaps the problem isn’t the classes? Perhaps it is that thousands of students graduating from California High Schools don’t belong in a 4-year university? Perhaps California should focus on its failing k-12 system and leave the universities alone to students that belong there due to their proficiency in basic math and English. This didn’t seem to be a problem 30 years ago or even 20. That it is a problem now isn’t because the college classes are more difficult. It’s that the students aren’t smart enough for a challenging 4 year degree.

    Replies

    • el 1 month ago1 month ago

      If you look closely at Fresno State's ECE 124 and ECE 155, these are junior level classes with many prerequisites, and 124 is a prerequisite for 155. There is no question that this is difficult material, and it may be that this is where the electrical engineering students decide this major isn't for them. But: to get there these students have already passed some difficult material taught in the university, so I don't think it's a … Read More

      If you look closely at Fresno State’s ECE 124 and ECE 155, these are junior level classes with many prerequisites, and 124 is a prerequisite for 155.

      There is no question that this is difficult material, and it may be that this is where the electrical engineering students decide this major isn’t for them.

      But: to get there these students have already passed some difficult material taught in the university, so I don’t think it’s a K-12 problem.

      Further: 50% of the students were weeded out at ECE 124, so maybe that’s the roadblock, the first super difficult class. But – of the 50% who worked hard and passed that class, another 50% of those students could not successfully complete ECE 155. We already know every student who got to this class knows how to work hard and master difficult material, so why is there such a low rate of success there?

    • Ellen Graham 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Yes, and college is now sold to them as a right and not a responsibility. Lots of kids should start at the community college with a clear goal. If they don’t have a goal, they should work for a while, go into a union apprenticeship or travel. College isn’t for everyone at every time in their life.

  13. Ethel ease Laczko 1 month ago1 month ago

    Hi Larry!
    What a pathetic and sad state of education and to think that we spend so much money in education. Thanks for your information.

  14. Faye Johnson 1 month ago1 month ago

    It’s about time!!!!!

    I’m sick and tired of hearing “professors” brag about high failure rates if it demonstrates high standards instead of their own failure to teach.

  15. el 1 month ago1 month ago

    I am the parent of a CSU student. First I'd like to point out that the drop date is quite early in the semester. Because of holidays or a semester not starting on Monday, sometimes a class has only met twice before that date is reached. This doesn't create a lot of time to realize that a class is not going to work for the student. In addition, as a practical matter, it is sometimes not … Read More

    I am the parent of a CSU student.

    First I’d like to point out that the drop date is quite early in the semester. Because of holidays or a semester not starting on Monday, sometimes a class has only met twice before that date is reached. This doesn’t create a lot of time to realize that a class is not going to work for the student. In addition, as a practical matter, it is sometimes not possible to find a replacement class after the semester begins to replace those units.

    One simple change that could help would be to make a course syllabus available to students at registration time, and/or visible without having to enroll in the class first. The syllabus has much more clarity about the expectations and major assignments for the class than the description, and even as an old and wise person I’ve seen surprises. It could be much worse as a first time student without a mentor.

    From my perspective, if the professor is doing a good job and all the students are prepared, everyone should consider the most optimal outcome to be that every student gets an A. That may take a cultural shift, to even consider that to be a goal. I don’t mean to say that grades shouldn’t be earned or that classes can’t be difficult. Some students will be unprepared or unable to do the work for reasons unrelated to the professor. But, curve or not, any professor who is giving exams where the average score out of 100 is 65 and the top score is 80 in a class of more than 100 students is giving an unreasonable exam. (This is a real life example from last semester.) This is soul-crushing to students, not educational, even if it is curved so they do end up with passing grades in the end. A professor who creates an exam where literally no one got a perfect score should view it as their failure in either exam creation or in teaching.

    I also want to recommend consideration of a rubric I’ve seen used in a CSU class, where instead of a percentage of total points determining say, an A, that an absolute number of points is required that is significantly less than the total possible – or another way to think of it is, ample extra credit. This gives the student some flexibility in choice of assignments and also it provides a way for students who stumble to recover and show mastery of the material after all. If they did poorly on an early assignment, they can do additional assignments where they can show they learned from their mistakes. If they miss class and can’t get those participation points, they can earn those points another way. This is what we want, learning, and subject mastery, not stack-ranking.

    Another practice I appreciate is to allow for any exam to be a drop score or allow for the grade on the final to substitute for a lower earlier exam score.

    Imagine how miserable it is to have a class you cannot drop where you are at 60% after the midterm and to go into the final knowing you have to get better than 90% to pass the class with a C, in a 90 minute high stakes block of time that starts at 8 pm. Or 8 am. (That’s a real thing.) And if you fail, you could lose your scholarship or your next term class choices. Even if you’ve gone to office hours and done everything you can, the anxiety can be pretty intense and right now the world has plenty of anxiety to go around. Some professors seem to think that mortal peril makes people learn better, but IME it’s just as likely to shut them down completely.

    My CSU student has done well and has mostly been well taught in interesting and challenging material. CSU is doing a lot of things right but they can do even better, and a careful audit of these classes with high drop, withdrawal, or failure rates is an essential part of a good process to make it the best it can be.

  16. Brian Kaufman 1 month ago1 month ago

    Yes, for years the emphasis has been on filling seats and hiring more 'remedial staff.' Meanwhile, admission standards are 'ability to qualify for financial aid' and students see themselves as 'consumers' of education rather than co-creators of their learning outcomes, meaning that the customer/student is always right and must be pandered to. Impossible to increase the retention and high standards when students know they can just complain and have their professor punished for having … Read More

    Yes, for years the emphasis has been on filling seats and hiring more ‘remedial staff.’ Meanwhile, admission standards are ‘ability to qualify for financial aid’ and students see themselves as ‘consumers’ of education rather than co-creators of their learning outcomes, meaning that the customer/student is always right and must be pandered to. Impossible to increase the retention and high standards when students know they can just complain and have their professor punished for having ‘expectations’ that students will actually do the readings and assignments designed to create a meaningful learning experience.

    Many campuses invest in the dorms before the classrooms, and add layers of ‘support services that students can avoid. In fact, one year when we lowered our admission standards significantly, I referred almost half of my students to the learning assistance center so they could explore time management, study skills, and get tutoring. I was reprimanded for referring so many students, and removed from teaching the course in question. Then our chancellor, at a Board of Trustees meeting, reminded all that the ‘job of faculty is to keep students happy.’ Mmmkay.

  17. Kathleen Leal 1 month ago1 month ago

    Grades are like prices that signal to the seller (teacher) and consumer (student) very important information. The trade-offs of 'reimagining the teaching of chemistry for student success' at the college level must be vetted before going down this road. If you are not passing physics and calculus, perhaps there is a mismatch in your abilities to the major. Not everyone can be an electrical engineer. No matter how many times you say equity will … Read More

    Grades are like prices that signal to the seller (teacher) and consumer (student) very important information. The trade-offs of ‘reimagining the teaching of chemistry for student success’ at the college level must be vetted before going down this road. If you are not passing physics and calculus, perhaps there is a mismatch in your abilities to the major. Not everyone can be an electrical engineer. No matter how many times you say equity will change that. Rather than lowering the rigor and having another Surfside Florida incident, why not have the courageous conversations with students who can be better served in another field/industry/vocation where they can align their skills and get paid by people who will value their strengths?

    Replies

    • Cindy Friday 1 month ago1 month ago

      We can teach physics or algebra differently without "watering down" content. Times change, and workplace demands change. For example, computers are part of every field now, but the mere inclusion of computers in learning is not equitable at the high school level statewide. Consider why we require all of the content in a class and look into whether it's effective. My middle son went to UNR years ago for mining engineering; they created a … Read More

      We can teach physics or algebra differently without “watering down” content. Times change, and workplace demands change. For example, computers are part of every field now, but the mere inclusion of computers in learning is not equitable at the high school level statewide. Consider why we require all of the content in a class and look into whether it’s effective. My middle son went to UNR years ago for mining engineering; they created a course called Calculus for Mining, to focus more time on just the part that was key to this field. Surprise! More students passed, and more could enter the field. This is just one example. Physics is another pet peeve of mine because of my youngest son’s experience. Require study pods, like international students automatically did decades ago when I was in the CSU. I have told my son to go to the tutoring center at the beginning, not when he gets his first bad grade.

      The state needs to require study groups for students on scholarship and grants. If you’re using the public dime to pay for school, some things should be required. If you don’t do it, you lose it. These are just my observations as a parent who has watched 3 sons go through college, sometimes failing a class. I think we need to keep our system in sync with today’s workplace demands and students, and as some others have said, lift up awareness of other career paths that don’t require 4 years (or 5) yet lead to rewarding careers. I enjoyed reading this article because it confirmed some of my guesses (as a mom and middle school teacher), and surprised me with some bits like U.S. History struggles in LA, I’m guessing with the challenges of academic reading.

  18. John Sramek 1 month ago1 month ago

    The US educational system has been purposely designed to dumb down American students. Common Core is an utter failure. Student comprehension rates from fell from 2010 to 2015 and then again to 2019. One-third of high school seniors can't pass a basic English language test, one-half can't pass basic math test and two-thirds can't pass basic science test. The rot extends from teachers unions through-out federal and state governments. As … Read More

    The US educational system has been purposely designed to dumb down American students. Common Core is an utter failure. Student comprehension rates from fell from 2010 to 2015 and then again to 2019. One-third of high school seniors can’t pass a basic English language test, one-half can’t pass basic math test and two-thirds can’t pass basic science test. The rot extends from teachers unions through-out federal and state governments. As for university programs, they have been undermined since the Frankfurt School intellectuals arrived in the US. To address this problem, changes have to be made in school administrations, teacher’s unions and government.

  19. James Mealy 1 month ago1 month ago

    The CSU places lots of lip service but little actual value in quality teaching. The main career incentive for instructors is to do research; students trying to learn lose out as a result. There’s never enough money for basic teaching resources, but always plenty of money to hire more administrators or give raises to existing administrators. Maybe the problem would go away if the CSU stopped insisting that the “do more with less” approach is actually working.

  20. Elizabeth Cullen 1 month ago1 month ago

    Concerned that the solution set did not include how to better work with K-12 educators. Children who arrive at college under-prepared for advanced coursework were failed much earlier in their academic career! Trying to fill the gaping holes in numeracy, literacy, and logic in older students is a tremendous waste of time and resources. It is time for early education professionals to "own" this failing scenario! And for policy-makers to step up and fix … Read More

    Concerned that the solution set did not include how to better work with K-12 educators. Children who arrive at college under-prepared for advanced coursework were failed much earlier in their academic career! Trying to fill the gaping holes in numeracy, literacy, and logic in older students is a tremendous waste of time and resources. It is time for early education professionals to “own” this failing scenario! And for policy-makers to step up and fix what’s holding so many young people back.

  21. Ramit Deepa 1 month ago1 month ago

    The reduced admission standards, abolishment of standardized admission tests, and the banning of remedial classes have vastly increased equity of access to the Cal State System, as it should be. But without investments in the students once they arrive on campus or if the students are not willing to take advantage of investments such as Supplemental Instruction, the majority are going to fail or receive a diploma that potential employers regard as a participation trophy. … Read More

    The reduced admission standards, abolishment of standardized admission tests, and the banning of remedial classes have vastly increased equity of access to the Cal State System, as it should be.

    But without investments in the students once they arrive on campus or if the students are not willing to take advantage of investments such as Supplemental Instruction, the majority are going to fail or receive a diploma that potential employers regard as a participation trophy.

    If the Cal State leadership persist in jamming the professors to raise class grades and pass rates, in very short order, people will trust Cal State’s numbers as much as they trust Chinese government statistics.

    Replies

    • Chris Stampolis 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Larry's article is missing some significant academic and professional research: which courses had lower DFW rates. To compare the data you reported we need to know about the other 89% of courses. The article states that only 11% of CSU courses had high DFW rates. That means that 89% of courses had DFW rates below 20%. Restated, 89% of all CSU courses had less than 20% of students who received a D or … Read More

      Larry’s article is missing some significant academic and professional research: which courses had lower DFW rates. To compare the data you reported we need to know about the other 89% of courses.

      The article states that only 11% of CSU courses had high DFW rates. That means that 89% of courses had DFW rates below 20%. Restated, 89% of all CSU courses had less than 20% of students who received a D or an F or who withdrew after the second week of the class. That number is a huge success. Delete the “W” students and that means about 90% of students passed at least 90% of CSU courses.

      What is the expected “W” rate for all courses across CSU’s 23 campuses, in aggregate? How about for UC? How about for a selection of private universities? Did you know that CSU does not allow even one undergraduate student at any of CSU’s 23 campuses to withdraw from any course without professor approval? During the first week and a half of a course a CSU student may drop a course with no notation on the student’s record. After that point, the CSU student must contact the professor personally to request written permission to petition the student’s Dean for a “W.” Larry, this missing aspect of the story is key.

      Does your reported data include all class sections offered within a course category over all reported years? Did you even ask that question?

      Did you request to disaggregate the “W” grades from the “D” and “F” grades? CSU has that information. A student that drops in week 3 or even week 8 is different from a student who receives a D or an F at end of term.

      Data’s interpretation is influenced by what you do and do not report. An objective assessment of your story is that in 90% of CSU’s courses more than 80% of the students pass, with about 10% getting a W and less than 10% receiving a “D” or an “F.”