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2016 November College English, v79.2

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Special Issue: Toward Writing Assessment as Social Justice

Level(s): College

ISBN/ISSN: 0010-0994


Special Issue: Toward Writing Assessment as Social Justice

Guest Editors’ Introduction: Toward Writing Assessment as Social Justice: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Mya Poe and Asao B. Inoue
Abstract: This special issue takes up a singular question: What would it mean to incorporate social justice into our writing assessments? This issue aims to foreground the perspectives of contributors whose voices are not typically heard in writing assessment scholarship: non-tenure-track faculty, HBCU WPAs, researchers interested in global rhetorics, queer faculty, and faculty of color. These voices have too often not been heard in writing assessment scholarship. There is no doubt that the first step toward projects of social justice writing assessment is to listen to those who have not been heard, to make more social the project of socially just writing assessment. The guest editors argue that there is much to be learned by making the writing assessment “scene,” as Chris Gallagher would say, more inclusive.

Making Classroom Writing Assessment More Visible, Equitable, and Portable through Digital Badging
Stephanie West-Puckett
Abstract: Stephanie West-Puckett argues for open badging as an alternative born-digital assessment paradigm that can, when attendant to critical validity inquiry, promote full participation and more equitable outcomes for students of color and lower income students. Her case study of digital badging in first-year composition demonstrates how students and teachers can negotiate “good writing,” interrupting bias through the co-creation of digital badges that demystify disciplinary knowledge and serve as portable assessment objects that build social capital across contexts.

Expanding the Dialogue on Writing Assessment at HBCUs: Foundational Assessment Concepts and Legacies of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
David F. Green Jr.
Abstract: Race and class are deeply embedded in the way the field and teachers think about linguistic and written performance. Yet, addressing and understanding racial and linguistic prejudice remains important to the fairness of one’s pedagogies, assessment practices, and curricular development. The author argues that social justice approaches to assessment require instructors and program administrators to rethink assessment concepts such as reliability and validity with an eye toward the ways disadvantage is embedded in the very construct task responses and assessment materials used to define quality writing. Because historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) present a unique blend of culturally relevant teaching and traditional (i.e., White) definitions of quality writing, they provide a unique site for inquiry into questions of writing assessment and social justice. Specifically, in engaging with the push-pull legacy toward language use and race that is found at HBCUs, the author indicates ways we might enable teachers, administrators, and students to resist monolingual, racialized consequences embedded in their views of writing assessment and rethink the foundational measurement concepts of reliability, validity, and fairness.

Beyond Translingual Writing
Jerry Won Lee
Abstract: The translingual turn has prompted various attempts at bringing “translingual writing” into various curricula. However, if such writing, indeed any writing, continues to be bound to prevailing assessment practices, then we potentially sustain and exacerbate inequitable sociolinguistic economies and relations. Lee argues that questions of whether to invite and how to assess translingual writing are secondary to questions of how to go about translanguaging assessment, which entails the application of theoretical tenets of translingualism toward a reimagination of existing assessment ecologies.

Assessment, Social Justice, and Latinxs in the US Community College
Siskanna Naynaha
Abstract: The Pew Hispanic Research Center reports that between 1996 and 2012, enrollment in US higher education among Latinxs between the ages of 18 and 24 increased by 240 percent. In 2012 college enrollment among Latinx high school graduates aged 18 to 24 surpassed that of Whites for the first time in history, and NCES calculations show that more than half of those Latinx students enroll in two-year schools. Hence, in 2015 Latinxs found themselves the explicit targets of community college recruitment efforts aimed to capitalize on the increased presence of students from Latinx backgrounds. Once they pass through the doors, however, Latinx students too often find institutions ill-prepared to support their retention and success. Policies intended to guarantee equity might be effective in an environment where everyone is, in effect, the same, or when people are different in institutionally sanctioned ways, as when a student is diagnosed with a disability. However, in the case of multilingual students, such policies can mean they are consigned to a kind of institutional purgatory. They are neither in nor out; they gain access to college but remain blocked from advancement by required courses or chosen programs of study.

Queered Writing Assessment
Jonathan Alexander
Abstract: Most writing assessment at the college level is geared toward “homegrown” or “traditional” students: the ones who start their first year of college education at the same institution from which they later graduate. Assessment at Alexander’s institution was mostly effective for those same students but was less successful for some transfer students, as shown in assessment data. Instead of trying to force those students to learn the “norm” standards, the author, as WPA, began conversations with faculty at the community colleges where these students begin their college careers to determine how to honor the many different writing knowledges that these students bring to the classroom. Looked at through a lens of queer theory, this is the path to “queering” writing assessment.

Who We Are(n’t) Assessing: Racializing Language and Writing Assessment in Writing Program Administration
Staci M. Perryman-Clark
Abstract: Decisions about writing assessment are rooted in racial and linguistic identity; the consequences for many writing assessment decisions are often reflective of the judgments made about who does and does not deserve opportunities for success, opportunities historically denied to students of color and linguistically diverse writers. Put simply, assessment creates or denies opportunity structures. Because writing assessment is also racially and linguistically affected by the identities of those performing assessment, the role of writing program administrator (WPA) becomes a social justice role that challenges racial and linguistic biases and interrogates institutional structures, so that all students have the same opportunities for success.

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