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WPA-GO Statement on Anti-Racist Assessment

WPA-GO Anti-Racist Assessment Task Force 

Why Anti-racist Assessment? 

Because we all live, work, and learn within racist systems, it is imperative that we use our positions of privilege as members of the  academy to promote and undertake anti-racist work.WPA-GO acknowledges that an important part of doing anti-racist work is collaborating with fellow educators to become increasingly critical of unjust pedagogical practices and institutional structures that affect writing assessment and students’ learning. Thus, this statement aims to not only articulate the position of the WPA-GO, but also provide resources on anti-racist assessment and pedagogy.  We offer this statement in solidarity and in conversation with the important anti-racist work that precedes it in composition studies and beyond.

As writing scholars (Perryman-Clark; Inoue; Young; and others) have pointed out, racism in college writing courses is pervasive; specifically, conventional writing assessment upholds racism by setting up systems of racialized consequences that benefit a white middle-class performance. As a direct result, students of color are more likely to experience negative effects of assessment (Perryman-Clark “Who We Aren’t Assessing”). Furthermore, because assessment has personal, professional, and material effects that determine how students move through institutional spaces, we must recognize that assessment is never ideologically-neutral.  

Our Beliefs and Commitments

Anti-racist pedagogy is a framework that must inform all aspects of our teaching and WPA work from our assessment practices to our teaching philosophy to our curriculum design. Given our charge as an assessment task force, we will focus specifically on assessment in this document. To that end, we aim to provide a brief overview of resources that demonstrate how anti-racist approaches can be used to inform choices about assessment. In addition to our recommendations in this document, WPA-GO further discusses and affirms the need to address racism in graduate education beyond assessment practices in the Statement on Racism and (g)WPA.

We believe that the work of anti-racist assessment is a complex and ongoing conversation. While we offer specific actionable items in the following section, we believe the work of anti-racism should continually be informed through careful action and critical reflection. Our endorsed practices are a starting point, but we urge all teachers of writing to adapt and build on these tools to best serve their own institutional context. Additionally, we believe that the work of anti-racist assessment is an ongoing learning process, and we invite you to continue learning and challenging your own beliefs as we challenge ours.  

Because this is a position statement on anti-racist assessment, our task force finds it essential to acknowledge that we write this statement from our position as young, emerging scholars of color as well as white allies. Additionally, we would like to recognize and combat the white racial habitus (to borrow a phrase from Inoue) of WPA-GO, CWPA, and the field of composition. 

We endorse:

  • Using directed self-placement as well as continued research on more ethical and equitable placement practices on the basis that standardized assessment practices privilege whiteness and should not be used for placement or exit measures (“TYCA White Paper on Placement Reform”).
  • Advocating for basic writing courses, which disproportionately teach students of color, to  always be credit-bearing because non-credit bearing courses delay student progress toward graduation and label students as “remedial.” 
  • Implementing models like stretch programs and the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) model, which expedite the courses that students take instead of requiring non-credit-bearing remedial courses.
  • Combating and making visible hegemonic writing standards and deficit language ideologies (Flores and Rosa; Young) that center White Standard English in academic writing.
  • Revising  Students’ Right to Their Own Language so that it no longer takes an additive approach to language and, instead, accepts students’ full range of linguistic and rhetorical practices in and out of school (See Perryman-Clark et al. for more on the SRTOL debate).
  • Co-creating labor-based grading contracts that center the quality of student writing but assign scores based upon labor, rather than centering any single, dominant standard (Inoue).
  • Incorporating  a multicultural model of rubric design, which encourages “writerly agency that privileges meaning-making through rhetorically based choices” (Balester). 
  • Using portfolios to allow students to revise, showcase their best work, and theorize their approaches to writing.
  • Hiring and promoting WPAs and instructors of color.
  • Building a program assessment model that supports local values such as self-assessment (Inoue, “Self-Assessment as Programmatic Center”).
  • Creating intersectional institutional support for teachers who experience discrimination in the form of, but not limited to, unfair teaching evaluations on the basis of race, which is often compounded by discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or language.
  • Acknowledging students’ labor in and out of the classroom.
  • Facilitating faculty-to-faculty conversations about anti-racist assessment. Such conversations provide faculty a space to collaboratively reflect on their program’s writing class culture, leading towards relationship-based development of anti-racist writing ecologies (Inoue).
  • Citing authors and assigning texts by people of color, especially when writing or teaching about race.

Works Cited and Resources for Further Reading 

Balester, Valerie. “How Writing Rubrics Fail: Toward a Multicultural Model” in Race and Writing Assessment, eds. Asao B. Inoue and Mya Poe. New York: Peter Lang, 2012. 

Condon, Frances and Vershawn Ashanti Young, eds. Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in

Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication. Across the Disciplines Books. The WAC

Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado, 2016.

Flores, Nelson, and Rosa, Jonathan. “Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 85, no. 2, 2015, pp. 149-171.

Inoue, Asao B. Labor-Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Classroom. The WAC Clearinghouse: Parlor Press, 2019.

---. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a 

Socially Just Future. The WAC Clearinghouse; Parlor Press, 2015.

---. “Self-Assessment as Programmatic Center: The First Year Writing Program and its Assessment at California State University, Fresno.”  In Ecologies of Writing Programs: Program Profiles in Context. eds. Mary Jo Reiff, Anis Bawarshi, Michelle Ballif, and Christian Weisser.  Parlor Press, 2015.

---. “Antiracist Writing Pedagogy: Racialized Places of Labor and Listening.” Edited by Andre Habet,, Studies in Writing and Rhetoric, 13 Dec. 2017,

Inoue, Asao B. and Poe, Mya.  Race and Writing Assessment. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

Matsuda, Paul Kei. “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition.” College English vol. 68, no. 6, 2006, pp. 637–651.

Poe, Mya, et al. “The Legal and the Local: Using Disparate Impact Analysis to Understand the 

Consequences of Writing Assessment.” College Composition and Communication, vol.

65, no. 4, 2014, pp. 588–611.

Perryman-Clark, Staci.  Afrocentric Teacher Research. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. 

---. “Who We Are(n’t) Assessing: Racializing Language and Writing Assessment in Writing Program Administration.” College English, vol. 79, no. 2, 2016, pp. 206-211.

Perryman-Clark, Staci and Collin Lamont Craig, Eds. Black Perspectives in Writing Program 

Administration: From the Margins to the Center. NCTE, 2019.

Perryman-Clark, Staci, et al. Students' Right to Their Own Language: A Critical Sourcebook. Bedford / St Martin's, 2015.

“TYCA White Paper on Placement Reform.” Teaching English in the Two Year College, vol. 44,

  1. 2, 2016, pp. 135–157.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti and Rusty Barrett. Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy. Teachers College Press, 2014.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Nah, We Straight:” An Argument Against Code Switching.” JAC, vol. 29, no. 1/2, 2009, pp. 49–76.

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