Moving into late Late August... and "back to school" is in the air. Along with preparations for fall classes, it's worth laying out a few happenings to which CWPA members and readers of this blog will likely want to pay careful attention to in the coming months. Read on!
Item 1: National Governors' Association turns their attention to postsecondary education. The NGA, along with the Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, are the muscle behind the Common Core State Standards (see item below). The CCSS are a set of common standards for grades K-12 for English Language and Math. The new NGA Chair, W.V. Governor Joe Manchin, has targeted postsecondary learning as the next site where common standards are needed. His initiative, called "Compete to Complete," doesn't yet include a lot of specifics. That said, NGA is very powerful and, especially with their partners, can work very quickly.
What you can do: Read Inside Higher Education and other trusted news sources and keep your ears open. As always, keep on working on developing curriculum and assessments that are research-based, developed in collaboration with interested others, and speak to a variety of audiences (inside and outside of our institutions) about what we're doing in our classes, why, and how.
Item 2: Common Core State Standards Initiative gains incredible momentum. As above, the CCSSI is an effort to develop standards in ELA and Math; it also encompasses speaking and listening in other disciplines. Because adoption of the CCSS was linked to states' eligibility for Race to the Top funding (among other reasons), the Standards have been adopted quickly -- at this writing, 33 states have adopted the standards. See earlier entries on responses to the Standards.While they do include writing, they do not focus on what we know fosters the development of good writers: experiences that will help writers to analyze and practice with expectations of different purposes, audiences, and contexts. Instead, they focus on two modes (informational and argumentative with a little description on the side).
What you can do: Again, read trusted sources like Inside Higher Ed. Additionally, talk with others on campus and off about what you know, based on your own experience, is important for successful college writing. CWPA, The National Writing Project, and the National Council of Teachers of English are also working on a document called The Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing that should be ready this fall -- again, watch this space.
Item 3: The "efficiency-ication" of writing education marches on. ETS and the College Board are integrally involved in the creation of assessments for the CCSSI. ETS (and others, but ETS will serve as a model here...) also continues to develop software to make writing instruction "more efficient," such as the latest version of Criterion.
What you can do: Read thoughtful scholarship from the field electronic scoring, such as Richard Haswell and Patricia Ericsson's Machine Scoring of Student Essays, Joyce Neff and Carl Whithaus's Scoring Across Distances and Disciplines, and the WPA-NMA Statement on Machine Scoring of Student Writing. Develop strategies for responding thoughtfully if/when the subject comes up in conversation with colleagues, administrators, or others.
These are but a few items that we can watch -- if there are others, post them here (in a response)! As always, the best way for CWPA members to think about these issues is together. We can share information about what we hear, develop sound and effective work at the local level, talk about that local work, and make connections between our work and others', weaving a net of best practices. After all, as I've said before... CWPA is all of us, and all of us are CWPA!