ECCTYC/TYCA Pacific Coast Resolution On Best Writing Assessment Practices

November 7, 2014

As the California Student Success Initiative (passed by the CACC Academic Senate[1] and by the California State Legislature) now requires California Community Colleges to administer a common placement test, ECCTYC/Pacific Coast TYCA[2] urges decision makers and stakeholders to uphold the principles of shared governance by relying on the expertise of scholars in the field and California two-year college teachers of English. The initiative suggests that placement will be severed from assessment policies and practices that serve students and faculty from the time of matriculation to the completion of the English composition sequence.

Although automated assessment programs may promise consistency, they distort the complex and context-rich nature of writing as, of necessity, the focus is on readily accessed features of the language (grammatical correctness, syntax, stylistic choices) and on error rather than on the appropriateness of the rhetorical choices made. We are deeply concerned about the implications of such an approach for student success, curriculum design, and professional development. We draw on the CCCC’s “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement”[3] in our call for 1) multiple measures that permit local participation in design and application, and 2) the inclusion of a writing sample scored by human readers.

Whereas writing assessment—from placement in appropriate courses to certifying proficiency in a single course or a series of courses—involves high stakes for students and has a profound impact on their educational journeys and success; and

Whereas best placement practice is informed by pedagogical and curricular goals and is therefore continually under review and subject to change by well-informed faculty and experienced instructor/evaluators; and

Whereas the decontextualized assessment of student’s rhetorical choices may disadvantage students whose home language or formative cultural experience reflects the diversity of California Community College’s student population; and

Whereas one standardized test with or without a piece of machine scored writing—generated even under the most desirable conditions—can not serve as an indicator of overall writing ability, especially given the high stakes for the test takers or potential biases built into the scoring criteria[4]; and

Whereas “writing-to-a-machine” violates the social nature of composing with a purpose for human audiences and automated assessment focuses on features such grammatical correctness, syntax and style and cannot take into account the rhetorical context of a student’s expression; and

Whereas the benefits of direct assessment of writing by instructor-evaluators–context rich student assessment, unique opportunities for faculty development, and ongoing curricula revision–far outweigh the presumed benefits of cost, speed, and simplicity of machine scoring; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the English Council of California Two-Year Colleges ECCTYC/TYCA Pacific Coast:

  1. urges decision makers who create and approve a statewide two-year college placement test ensure that English instructors with knowledge and experience of how integrated assessment programs inform curriculum and pedagogy participate in the design and evaluation, ensure that this test is grounded in the latest research on language learning and assessment practices, and ensure that the link to placement and curriculum is clear for all stakeholders—students, faculty, and administration.


  1. urges decision makers to require multiple measures, measures that can be reviewed and revised (including a statewide test) to uphold best practices of local curricular and pedagogical polices; and


  1. urges decision makers, in line with the Best Assessment Practices as defined by national CCCC, require all writing samples be scored by human readers whose participation will inform assessment procedures that promote the growth of students across the composition sequence.

[1] California Community Colleges Academic Senate

[2] ECCTYC (English Council of California Community Colleges, Pacific Coast region of the national Two Year College Association)

[3]  Conference on College Composition and Communication, the national organization of university and two-year college composition scholarship; see also the National Council Teachers of English, “NCTE Position Statement on Machine Scoring” (2013).


[4] See “CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments.”



Resolution: English Education in Times of Budget Cuts

15 April 2011

WHEREAS, Budget cuts to the California Community Colleges have the potential to compromise the system’s ability to meet the educational mission, deny state residents access to education, and/or adversely affect students enrolled in the Community College system; and

WHEREAS, The California Community College Chancellor’s Office has rightfully affirmed its support of and commitment to Basic Skills, Career/Technical education, and Transfer Curriculum and Programs; and

WHEREAS, English curriculum and programs are critical to students’ ability to achieve their diverse educational goals, including Associate Degrees, Certificates, job training, and transfer; therefore be it

RESOLVED, The English Council of California Two-Year Colleges reaffirms the principles of shared governance process in budget decisions; and be it further

RESOLVED, That English faculty participate in campus decision-making committees and professional organizations; and be it further

RESOLVED, These actions will insure that English programs:

  • Offer a curriculum that fully supports student completion of stated educational goals,
  • Provide timely access to these vital courses,
  • Promote hiring policies that provide sufficient qualified faculty (fulltime and adjunct) to teach these courses, and
  • Foster working conditions that support fulltime and adjunct faculty efforts to promote student success in English courses.