References Discussing Testing and Placement into Basic Writing Programs
“Credit by Exam for English 103.” Ball State University English Department
This document is a two-page guide for students who feel like they should have been placed into 104, the final composition course for first-year students. Its main purpose is to guide students through the types of writing the program feels are crucial to the experience offered by 103. To test out of 103, the student must submit four essays written previously, one reflection of the elements within the portfolio, and one written impromptu in the writing program office. The guidelines also dictate what type of essays should be submitted from among the student’s past work. The nine specific essays types requested ask for the student to show their rhetorical skills, mainly through the development of ethos. Controversial topics, evaluations, interpretations, and persuasions dominate the essays. From this, it is assumed that English 103, a first-year course, is supposed to produce writers that understand how rhetoric functions and can employ it in the developments of their own discourse.
Hanson, Linda. Personal Interview. 13 October 2009.
As the previous director of the writing program at Ball State University, Hanson has helped to change the way writing is viewed within the English department. Our interview encompassed history, research within the program, and the current results of past compromises. The program at BSU, when Hanson arrived, was steeped in overly-rigid limiter system. By looking at the then present skills assessment test each students took before and after completing English 099, Hanson saw that success was based on the student’s level of writing and spelling correctness. The spelling scores indicated the student was motivated. From this, the department had developed a placement protocol by 1989 that took into account standardized test scores and high school transcripts. Each of these indicators showed the writing competency and motivation of a student, respectively. At this time, the widespread dismissal of grammar exercises as effective teaching strategies led the department to embrace a portfolio system, more choices of topics, and writing groups. Hanson also fought hard to have the basic writing courses upgraded from 099 classes, which did not offer credit towards graduation, to 101 and 102 classes, which did offer credits towards graduation, but only at two hours per class. It is important to note that the results from this research project were reconfirmed years later within the writing program.
Hanson Meeker, Linda. Pragmatic Politics: Using Assessment Tools to (Re)Shape a Curriculum.” Journal of Basic Writing 9.1 (Spring 1990): 3-19.
This research summation follows the ways in which Ball State University developed their writing program over a two and half year period in the late 1980s. The process involved looking at what factors indicated future success for the students who were placed into the developmental writing track within the university’s first-year writing courses. At the same time, the ways in which the developmental courses were taught were discrete skills based approaches, which were detrimental to the development of writing. The new direction focused on re-training faculty members to focus on a process-driven approach to writing, with a pronounced emphasis on not teaching to the assessment tests the students would take later. Armed with a new version of the correlations between specific tests and success beyond developmental writing, the program weighted its course differently, with 60% of the passing grade being determined by the students’ portfolios, 25% determined by a timed-writing essay, and only 15% determined by a spelling test. The new focus was shifted towards what the students actually write through the semester, which allowed the faculty to focus on improving writing skills.
“Skill Assessment Program: Information for Students.” Office of Assessment: The City University of New York, Fall 2007-Summer 2008.
This offers a direct introduction for the three assessment tests CUNY offers for those below the national standardized test thresholds set by the university. The guide offers examples of reading, math, and writing, with extensive examples of writing given. This booklet clearly explains the ways in which the test is graded, how the scoring is done, and what is required to test out of remedial writing course, which do not count for credit. The directions stress clear, straightforward prose with out any mistake in edited American English. The writing samples given are as blasé as the prompts themselves, most of which so general as to border on unanswerable. The rhetoric required becomes formulaic, bordering on anti-writing, which closes off varied meanings.
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