I’ll focus on how the “completion agenda,” represented by Complete College America (CCA), is being implemented at the local level. CCA argues that low college completion rates hurt states’ economic growth and should be addressed using four “policy levers”: performance based funding based on outcomes assessment, ending remediation, changing delivery methods, and decreasing time to degree. In December 2010, the Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) officials endorsed CCA’s goals and called for “partnership with k-12” to end remediation.
This partnership has been implemented in a specific way here. In Spring 2013, a pilot program began to remove courses designated “remedial” from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Some sections of English 098, a basic writing course designed at UNR, would be taught in local district high schools by high school teachers. If this program was successful, administrators suggested, it might become common practice.
For writing faculty at UNR, this practice raised questions: would high school teachers’ understandings of student writing reflect the intent of the course (“basic” rather than “remedial”)? What kind of preparation and support might teachers have when working with basic writers? And how might teachers adapt the 098 course (designed by faculty at UNR) to the high school context?
These questions resonate with discussions in composition regarding basic writing. The removal of basic writing recalls the institutional responses of downsizing and restratification Mary Soliday identifies in The Politics of Remediation. NSHE administrators frame basic writing (at least at an R-1 state system flagship) as waste that doesn’t contribute to the public good. Likewise, by restratifying writing education, NSHE administrators suggest that underprepared students represent cost but not opportunity for the university. Tom Fox terms this suggestion choosing standards over access.
Although no literacy educators have responded to the CCA’s argument directly, defenses of basic writing (e.g., Horner and Lu; Adler-Kassner and Harrington) reveal NSHE/CCA’s lack of interest in student perspectives on writing, learning, and social context. Likewise, Soliday and Fox’s analyses reveal the gulf between the NSHE/CCA and literacy educators’ professional values as represented by the NCTE. Generally, the purpose of literacy education envisioned in the CCA (completion for competition) is starkly different from that outlined in the NCTE/CWPA/NWP Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing.
This post is short and there is much more to say. In future posts, I’ll focus on how other higher education policy reforms (like the Collegiate Learning Assessment) are being implemented in Nevada.
*References were omitted to fit the 500 word limit.