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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Journal of Writing Assessment provides a peer-reviewed forum for the publication of manuscripts from a variety of disciplines and perspectives that address topics in writing assessment. Submissions may investigate such assessment-related topics as grading and response, program assessment, historical perspectives on assessment, assessment theory, and educational measurement as well as other relevant topics. Articles are welcome from a variety of areas including K-12, college classes, large-scale assessment, and noneducational settings. We also welcome book reviews of recent publications related to writing assessment and annotated bibliographies of current issues in writing assessment.

Please refer to the submission guidelines on this page for information for authors and submission guidelines.


Innovation and the California State University and Colleges English Equivalency Examination, 1973-1981: An Organizational Perspective

This article examines the origin and development of the English Equivalency Exam (EEE) used by California State University and Colleges between 1973 and 1981. Although an episode in the history of writing assessment that has been well documented, the EEE bears revisiting through the lens of an organizational perspective, with special attention to the process of innovation. Attention to management processes and the contexts in which they occur can inform the perspectives of professionals in language assessment and strengthen their commitment to action undertaken on behalf of students.

Keywords: assessment management; California State University and Colleges English Equivalency Examination; history of writing assessment; holistic scoring; innovation

The Micropolitics of Pathways: Teacher Education, Writing Assessment, and the Common Core

Within writing assessment scholarship, disciplinary discussions about the politics of pathways regularly question how reforms mediate education and affect education actors. This article complements and complicates these conversations by attending to the micropolitics of pathways: how local education actors mediate reform-related standards, and, in the process, pave what they believe to be locally-meaningful pathways. Taking the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as our point of departure, our study centers on one important site for micropolitical work that has, to date, gone unstudied in CCSS-focused writing assessment research: teacher education, which involves coordination between secondary and postsecondary actors who might differently interpret and engage with externally-imposed reforms. Our findings suggest that while standards may be politically intended to mediate education and standardize pathways, teachers micropolitically interpret and repurpose those standards--strategically drawing on them as a means to communicate about local writing instruction and assessment. For this reason, we argue conversations about pathway-related reforms can benefit from adopting a micropolitical perspective, sensitive to the participation of teachers in locally constructing and maintaining educational pathways.

Keywords: Micropolitics of pathways; Common Core State Standards; Teacher education; Writing assessment; Local interpretation

Collaborative Assessment of Dual Enrollment: The View From Arizona

In the last 10 years, scholars in composition studies have begun to take stock of the seismic impact of dual credit and concurrent enrollment pathways (DC/CE) on the landscape of composition programs. Nearly every aspect of DC/CE has come under scrutiny with particular emphasis placed on the relative rigor of curricula, questions of equitable access for high school students, the quality of training available for faculty, growth far outpacing accreditation or even clear oversight, and the lack of reliable data about DC/CE practices in general. We describe these issues as they have emerged with the national rise of DC/CE programs. Drawing on position statements from professional organizations and a range of recent scholarship, we add our voice to those in our discipline offering a thoroughgoing inventory of the state of DC/CE practices. Using our local context in Arizona as a case study, we recommend a collaborative approach to developing criteria for assessing DC/CE curricula, exploring among other models Bob Broad's approach to "dynamic criteria mapping", which provides us with a framework for organizing collaborative assessment in Arizona. With an eye to our own local institutional history and dynamic, we recommend that our state English Articulation Task Force (ATF) is best positioned to take on a coordinating role among stakeholders in secondary and postsecondary institutions. We offer this local recommendation as one example of how states can engage pedagogical and policy issues (assessment central among them) by forming and maintaining a collaborative approach suited to local contexts in order to move more fully toward our field's emerging sense of best assessment practices.

Keywords: dual enrollment; assessment; collaborative assessment; articulation; transfer agreements; state policy; Arizona

Legislating First-Year Writing Placement: Implications for Pennsylvania and Across the Country

As many states begin to phase in new assessments of Common Core State Standards, this study explores the complicated politics of alignment, entry-level pathways, and developmental education at the college level. Through a comparative analysis of state level policies in Florida, Wisconsin, and Idaho, the authors discuss implications for possible similar legislation in Pennsylvania. They argue writing program faculty may be able to leverage the implementations of such assessments by adopting the impending exams as an exigence for paying attention to legislative efforts to define "college ready", building relationships with policymakers, creating system-wide first-year writing coherence, using effective rhetoric, and exploring multiple measures for placement processes.

Keywords: placement, common core, state policy, rhetoric

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Katrina L. Miller, Department of English, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705. Contact:

Re-Assessing Composition at Open Access Institutions: Using a Threshold Framework to Reshape Practice

Recent developments in the scholarship of threshold concepts in writing studies can provide a durable and flexible conceptual framework that is responsive to neoliberal completion, job-readiness mandates within guided pathways and similar initiatives. A curriculum designed with a reflection-driven threshold concept framework is pedagogically and politically valuable to composition because of its ability to exist at the interstices theory and practice, addressing conditions surrounding composition at two-year colleges. This reflective aspect of the threshold concept framework is readily aligned with the positive element of guided pathways that emphasizes curricular cohesion through an emphasis on students' metacognitive development. Additionally, our model allows us to operate in the context of best practices in outcomes-based assessments, providing data on student writing and reflective practices, valued by a wide variety of stakeholders at our institution while maintaining a sustainable ecology of assessment that takes into account the material realities of two-year college labor.

Keywords: Composition; Community college; Threshold concepts; Metacognition; Labor

The Path to Competency-Based Certification: A Look at the LEAP Challenge and the VALUE Rubric for Written Communication

Although originally designed by writing professionals, AAC&U's VALUE Written Communication rubric is one small part of a larger national vision for higher education. This article traces that vision through multiple AAC&U publications from 2002-2017 to demonstrate the way advocacy-based philanthropy and competency-based education has shifted the VALUE initiative away from institutionally-based assessment toward national accountability. With the General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) pathway initiative of 2015 and the creation of the VALUE Institute national scoring database in 2018, the VALUE rubrics may be used to compare writing instruction at universities, to facilitate state-wide transfer agreements, and to certify students' degree completion. In so doing, much of the original value of the rubric for writing studies is lost. When used on a national scale, it is impossible to modify for local context. I argue experts in writing assessment need greater awareness of the impact on these large-scale movements on the use of rubrics for writing instruction in higher education.

Keywords: rubrics, competency-based education, advocacy-based philanthropy, AAC&U, VALUE rubrics