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The ERWC: An Additional Approach to Increasing College Readiness
At the 2011 Fall Plenary Session, the delegates passed resolution 13.10, which resolved that the “Academic Senate for California Community Colleges disseminate information about the California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Course by Spring 2012 to local academic senates and encourage them to involve their English faculty (including their reading faculty) in collaboration with local high schools and CSU campuses in this college readiness effort.” The Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) was designed to improve the readiness of high school students for English competency in college, whether in the CSU, UC, or the California Community College (CCC) systems, and employs a research based effective practices approach for teaching both reading and writing. The purposes of this article are to provide essential information about the ERWC, to note the potential advantages it can offer to the CCC system, and to illuminate opportunities for involvement.
Focused efforts to increase students’ college readiness are certainly not new to the CCC. Most notably, the Basic Skills Initiative has initiated important conversations and facilitated the development and implementation of a variety of successful innovations on campuses throughout the system. Faculty at Los Medanos College and Chabot College reorganized their English programs – integrating an applied pedagogy similar to the ERWC – and have demonstrated significant student improvement as a result 2 (. Additionally, the Student Success Task Force recommendations encourage the CCC to “collaborate with K-12 education to jointly develop new common standards for college and career readiness that are aligned with high school exit standards.” This collaboration has already begun through the Early Assessment Program (EAP), and the ERWC is another avenue toward the same established CCC college readiness goals.
The CCC-CSU Early Assessment Program (EAP)
The EAP is a voluntary program designed to increase the college readiness, and eventual college success, of California’s high school students by bridging the gap between high school standards and college expectations. It has three major components: early testing, the opportunity for additional preparation in grade 12, and professional development activities for high school teachers. Initiated in 2004 by the California State University System and already comprised of many collaborators (the California State Department of Education, the California State Board of Education, and County Offices of Educations statewide), the California Community Colleges officially partnered with the EAP through the passage of Senate Bill 946 in September of 2008. This bill authorized participating CCC districts to use California Standards Test (CST) and Augmented CST (EAP) results for the purposes of assessment and placement of high school students and encouraged the utilization of the existing infrastructure of the CSU’s EAP. As of December 2011, 57 CCC campuses have voluntarily agree to accept “college ready” designations earned on the English portion of EAP – administered at the end of the 11th grade -- for placement directly into first semester transfer level composition. For more information about the program and content of the Augmented CST (EAP), visit http://www.collegeeap.org/. and http://www.calstate.edu/eap/augmentation.shtml.
The ERWC was established for those students who do not earn a “college ready” designation through the Augmented CST/EAP so that their senior year can be fully utilized to increase academic preparation.
What is the ERWC?
Originally created by a task force of university and high school educators as a part of the CSU’s Early Assessment Program in 2004, the ERWC was designed to improve the academic literacy of high school seniors in preparation for college. The course was piloted for several years, revised in response, and published in 2008. Approved by the University of California and the CSU as a year-long college-preparatory English course in 2006, students in schools that choose to offer the ERWC may take the course as their core English class in twelfth grade. Based mainly on non-fiction texts, the course emphasizes the in-depth study of expository, analytical, and argumentative reading and writing. The curriculum contains 14 modules divided into two semesters. Each module is structured by a central assignment template composed of a sequence of integrated reading and writing experiences that begin with prereading activities, move into reading and postreading activities, and continue through informal and formal writing assignments. Text-based grammar lessons supplement the first semester of the course. Unique in its rhetorical approach to grammar, the Text-Based Grammar for Expository Reading and Writing (Ching, 2008) uses curriculum readings and students’ own writings to build competence in writing conventions and rhetorical power in language use. Meeting both high school requirements and college expectations, the course is intended to align with California English-Language Arts Content Standards, the recently adopted Common Core State Standards, and the Statements of Competencies created by the Intersegmental Council of Academic Senates articulated in Academic Literacy: A Statement of Competencies Expected of Students Entering California’s Public Colleges and Universities.
After attending an ERWC Professional Learning Series, facilitated through the CSU’s Center for the Advancement of Reading and local County Offices of Educations, high school faculty can offer the entire course in grades 11 or 12 or opt for a “punctuated” adoption which integrates select modules into grades 11 and/or 12.
Evidence of ERWC’s Promise
To date, over 6,000 California educators have participated in professional development for the ERWC, and 278 schools (22.3% of the state’s 1,246 comprehensive high schools) have adopted the ERWC as a full-year course. Data linking the use of the ERWC with increased college readiness has been derived from evaluation studies that examined quantitative and qualitative outcomes for schools with large numbers of teachers participating in ERWC professional development and schools that participated in a federal Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from 2006-2010. In those studies, the rates of gain were calculated on the percentage of college ready students (as measured by the Augmented CST/EAP test in 11th grade) and the percent of students proficient upon entry in the CSU (as measured by the CSU English Placement Test) from 2006-2010. In the FIPSE evaluation, the schools participating in ERWC showed more improvement than all schools at the state level. Further evaluation of ERWC’s efficacy is built into a recently acquired Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, “From Rhetoric to College Readiness: The Expository Reading and Writing Course.”
CCC Faculty Participation
CCC faculty continue to be engaged in these efforts. Both authors of this article serve on the ERWC Advisory Committee, representing the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and the English Council of California’s Two-Year Colleges. A handful of CCC faculty have become co-facilitators for the ERWC Professional Learning Series, and many CCC faculty have attended local ERWC Professional Learning Series to become acquainted with the course, to inform their own participation in local college readiness efforts, and to enhance their own instructional practices. In some regions, CSU and CCC faculty are encouraging their feeder high schools to adopt the ERWC and are working collaboratively with high school teachers to more deeply imbed the ERWC emphasis and methodology in grades 9-12.
These ERWC related efforts could be further expanded and hold tremendous promise to increase the academic preparedness of our future students, increase the academic preparedness of our own community college students, and thus increase student success across the board. We encourage and invite you to get involved.
To learn more about the ERWC and/or to register to attend ERWC Professional Learning Series, visit http://www.calstate.edu/eap/englishcourse.
2. For more on the Los Medanos reorganization see “Los Medanos College: A Basic Skills Success Story,” Rostrum — August 31, 2010