English Council’s Early Start Proposal

7 11 2009

From Kim Costino, CSUEC Composition Coordinator, Regarding the Early Start Proposal:

As most of you know by now, the new Vice Chancellor, Jeri Echeverria, spoke at the Fall English Council meeting about the BOT resolution to begin mandatory Early Start programs on all campuses next year.  She explained that she is to make her recommendations for what these programs might look like to the BOT in Feb 2010 and that she has organized a taskforce to help her make her recommendations.  Glen McClish , as president of English Council, is a member of her taskforce.

At the Fall meeting, Glen asked for a taskforce of English Council members to come up with English Council’s proposal for Early Start.  After consultation with English Council members on Thurs and Fri of the fall meeting, the following document is what this taskforce (which consists of Sugie Goen, John Edlund, Tara Lockhart, Jim Garrett, Brenda Helmbrecht, and myself) came up with.  I sent it to Glen on Sat for his meeting today.  If you have any questions or comments about the document . . ., please let me know.


Kimberly Costino
Associate Professor of English
Gateway Program Director
Composition Coordinator
5500 University Pkwy
California State University, San Bernardino
San Bernardino, CA 92407
tel: 909-537-5825
fax: 909-537-7086

This proposal, which we intend to be rolled out over the next three years so that we can collect data for assessment, is offered in response to Vice Chancellor Jeri Echeverria’s request for input from the CSU English Council on the implementation of an English Early Start program.

We understand that the Board of Trustees’ resolution to implement Early Start programs on all CSU campuses is an effort to help integrate first year students into mainstream academic life quickly, humanely, and with a high degree of probability that they will graduate. We share this concern. Thus, based on the clear consensus of national scholars within the field of rhetoric and composition (see Appendix A) and on the strong results of data-driven research conducted on our own campuses (see Appendices B-E, listed and linked below), we make the following recommendations:

  1. Discontinue use of the English Placement Test. The English Placement test was originally designed to place students fully qualified for admission, into appropriate first-year English courses. In addition to widely held skepticism about the ability of a single timed test to reliably predict a student’s ability to succeed in college, it is a gross misapplication of the EPT to use it to determine eligibility for admission or to place prohibitive preconditions on admission.
  2. Allow campuses to choose one of the following placement options as an alternative to the EPT:
    • Option A–Directed Self-Placement–a placement system in which students choose, with guidance from designees of the writing program, the course of writing instruction most appropriate for their needs.
    • Option B–Directed Self-Placement combined with a Stretch Program–a placement system in which students choose, with guidance from designees of the writing program, an accelerated one quarter/semester writing course or a series of baccalaureate credit-bearing writing courses “stretched” over two or more semesters/quarters with the same instructor and cohort of students. (See Appendix C: Fresno and Appendix D: CSUCI for data findings supporting this option.)
    • Option C–A locally administered placement tool that has been approved system-wide–such a system would ideally be based on an assessment of writing students produced in high school, such as a portfolio generated by ERWC, an ERWC waiver, etc.
  3. Develop a reciprocal Early Start option for each campus, designed by English Council members and modeled on the strong and successful ERWC program. While it will be mandatory for each campus to provide an Early Start option for its students, it will be optional for students to enroll in these programs. Such an option, which must be delivered by composition faculty hired and supervised by the English department or relevant Writing Program on each campus, would be reciprocal throughout the system.
  4. Provide campuses with resources necessary to collect appropriate evaluation data. Given the Chancellor’s Office’s, the Board of Trustees’, and our own commitment to data-driven decision-making, policies, and practices, we also request an assurance that we will have the resources for an Early Start coordinator to collect comparative data on these alternate placement approaches and on the Early Start option. Collecting such data will enable us to discern how alternative forms of placement compare to the EPT, and the success rates (pass rates, retention, persistence to graduation, etc.) of students who choose the Early Start option compared to students who go directly into first-year writing programs currently available on our campuses.

Appendix A: A Selected Bibliography on Writing Placement and Assessment (download)
Appendix B: SFSU Early Start IRW Report (download)
Appendix C1: CSUF Summary (download)
Appendix C2: CSUF Report on DSP for English Council (download)
Appendix D1: CSUCI DSP Summary (download)
Appendix D2: CSUCI DSP Final Four-Year Report (download)
Appendix E: CSULA Report on Remediation (download)




%d bloggers like this: