Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Journal of Writing Assessment Editorial Team will be at the 2017 Conference on College Composition and Communication this week.  We'd love to see you and talk with you about your ideas for publications with JWA!

On Wednesday, March 15 from 1:15-2:30 PM, Diane Kelly-Riley will be at the Research Network Forum's Editors Roundtable in the Oregon Convention Center, Portland Ballrooms 256, 257, and 258.

On Friday, March 17 from 12-1 PM, Carl Whithaus will be at the Independent Rhetoric and Composition Journals table in the Exhibit Hall in the Oregon Convention Center.  We'll be in Booth 303.

Our JWA Editorial Team will be at 4C17--keep an eye out for Diane Kelly-Riley, Ti Macklin, Jessica Nastal-Dema, and Carl Whithaus.

We'd love to meet with you to talk about your enthusiastic ideas for potential publications with the Journal of Writing Assessment or our the JWA Reading List.  Email us at journalofwritingassessment@gmail.com to set up an appointment!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

CFP for a Special Issue of the Journal of Writing Assessment: Politics of Pathways

Call for Papers
Special Issue of Journal of Writing Assessment
Politics of Pathways: Articulation Agreements, Graduation Requirements, and Narrowing of Curricula
Diane Kelly-Riley and Carl Whithaus, Editors
The Journal of Writing Assessment solicits articles that address the multiple ways in which writing assessments interact with high school graduation requirements; articulation agreements across high schools, community colleges, and four-year universities; and, students’ pathways through postsecondary education.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have reshaped secondary English Language Arts (ELA) curricula across the United States. Through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments, as well as through changes to writing assessments in states which have created their own assessment instruments or rely on commercial products, the CCSS have shifted writing curricula towards a greater focus on connections between provided informational (i.e., nonfiction) texts and the writing that students produce on these formal assessments.

Passing these CCSS-influenced ELA assessments are now graduation requirements in many states, which has lead to articulation agreements that require at least their public community colleges--if not their state-level comprehensive universities and/or flagship research institutions--to acknowledge high school graduates as “college ready.” That is, according to the policies set by many state legislatures, high school graduates should not be placed into remedial writing courses but should enroll in first-year composition courses. In addition, there has been a growth in dual credit, early college initiatives, AP, and IB programs. These all shift aspects of developing college writing skills into secondary schools.

At the same moment high school graduation requirements are being shaped by CCSS and articulation processes among high schools, community colleges, and universities are changing, there is a robust debate emerging around the pathways students take through postsecondary education, particularly through community colleges. In Redesigning America’s Community Colleges (2015)​, Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Davis Jenkins have mapped out a reform plan for improving America’s community colleges. Their “guided pathways” model has been critiqued by UCLA’s Mike Rose (2016) who argues for allowing students multiple chances, multiple “blunders” and “transgressions” as they explore opportunities at postsecondary educational institutions. For Rose, Bailey et al.’s model is too limiting; it excludes students who opt to enroll one course at a time, to develop their occupational and academic trajectories in ways that fit within the messiness and complexities of their lives. National efforts led by nonprofits and philanthropic organizations with strong legislative support--like Complete College America and the Gates Foundation--are moving to change and restructure pathways into higher education. Their emphasis on lowering credit limits for postsecondary general education requirements, structuring students’ schedules, standardizing advising requirements, and limiting courses students complete within disciplines to specific “pathways” all have the same effect of removing disciplinary diversity, student choice, and faculty autonomy. Again, writing assessment instruments and practices are central players in discussions about pathways into and through postsecondary education.

Needless to say, these policy changes are affecting community colleges and four-year universities as well as secondary ELA instruction. Understanding the roles that writing assessments are playing in relationship to students’ pathways through postsecondary education is a necessary and timely research endeavor. Writing assessment instruments are at the fulcrum of these practices.  

JWA calls for articles in which researchers, teachers, and administrators respond to the dynamics around current high school graduation requirements, articulation processes, and efforts to facilitate students’ paths through postsecondary education. Writing assessments play crucial parts in determining “college and career readiness,” in placing students into basic or first-year writing courses, and in providing guidance or constraints as students move along their pathways to completing postsecondary education. Understanding the dynamics around these writing assessments, particular on local or state levels is an essential undertaking. It will add immense value to the research literature and to practices that impact not only writing assessment but also curriculum and instruction at the high school and college levels.
The Journal of Writing Assessment invites manuscripts that explore the following: How are secondary teachers revising their teaching methods? How are community colleges and four-year universities shifting their writing placement practices? How are the placement agreements working? Where are there problems with them?  We seek articles that examine how writing assessments interact with:
  • high school graduation requirements;
  • articulation agreements among community colleges, comprehensive state universities, as well as public and private research universities; and/or,
  • students’ paths through postsecondary writing curricula, particularly those influenced by guided pathways models proposed by Bailey et al.

We are interested in manuscripts from a variety of viewpoints including, but not limited to, empirical, historical, theoretical, qualitative, experiential, and quantitative.
For inclusion in JWA 10.1, proposals (200-400 words) are due by Feb. 17, 2017. Please submit your proposals to journalofwritingassessment@gmail.com.  Full drafts of articles will be due by May 30, 2017. Queries may be addressed to the JWA editors, Diane Kelly-Riley and Carl Whithaus, at journalofwritingassessment@gmail.com.   

For more information, visit JWA online http://www.journalofwritingassessment.org/.

Bailey, T., Jaggars, S. S., & Jenkins, D. (2015). Redesigning America’s community colleges: A
clearer path to student success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.
Rose, M. (2016). Reassessing a redesign of community colleges. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved

from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/06/23/essay-challenges-facing-guided-pathways-model-restructuring-two-year-colleges

Monday, November 14, 2016

JWA at NCTE in Atlanta, GA November 17-20, 2017

Journal of Writing Assessment will be at the upcoming 2016 NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia later this week!

On Friday, November 18, attend session C.23 from 12:30-1:45 pm for the rountable discussion on "Impacts of the Common Core State Standards Assessment on Secondary and Postsecondary Writing Instruction" in room B301.

This roundtable examines the impacts of the CCSS assessments on secondary and postsecondary students’ learning and writing, continuing conversations begun in last year’s Journal of Writing Assessment (JWA) Special Issue. The roundtable makes connections between research and advocacy work about educational policies, writing assessment, and curricula. 

The session will be chaired by JWA Editor Carl Whithaus, University of California, Davis.  Several of the authors of articles in the Special Issue will provide perspectives for discussion.  

Roundtable Leaders include Doug Baldwin, Educational Testing Service; Angela Clark-Oates, California State University, Sacramento; Brad Jacobson, University of Arizona; Duane Roen, Arizona State University; and Carl Whithaus, University of California, Davis.

Kathryn Mitchell Pierce, St. Louis University, will be the respondent.

If you would like to talk with Carl Whithaus during the NCTE conference, email him at cwwhithaus [at] ucdavis [dot] edu to arrange a meeting or you can tweet him at @carl_whithaus. 

Alternately, we're always looking to hear from you about publication ideas for JWA or for the JWA Reading List.  Please contact us at journalofwritingassessment [at] gmail [dot] com.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Review of Shari J. Stenberg's Repurposing Composition: Feminist Interventions of a Neoliberal Age

Stenberg, S. (2015). Repurposing composition: Feminist interventions of a neoliberal age. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.

By S.D.C. Parker, University of Alabama

In an academic climate where adjunct has become a dirty word, Shari J. Stenberg offers a timely look at how neoliberalism and a profit-driven academy can be harmful to pedagogical principles in composition. Stenberg’s Repurposing Composition: Feminist Interventions for a Neoliberal Age (2015) considers a growing, though certainly not new, concern for scholars—how do post-secondary educators address the conflicting goals of the academy as a place for job training and as a place to “help students become active and thinking civic members of society” (p. 8)? Assessment practices for student writing are driven by these conflicting goals, and a student’s ability to conform to neoliberal aims does not necessarily produce meaningful and thoughtful work. But even in this somewhat dark educational climate, Stenberg offers hope. She calls us, as researchers and educators, to alter the neoliberal timeline by changing our pedagogical practices, or rather, by repurposing composition through feminist practices and ideologies, including shifting from an accountability logic to a responsibility logic when assessing student writing.

Stenberg defines neoliberalism as the “set of economic principles and cultural politics that positions the free market as a guide for all human action” (p. 4). To repurpose the educational guidelines and standardizations inspired by these neoliberal aims, Stenberg asks us to challenge “the habitual or status quo” by departing from it and enacting “new purposes” (p. 17). Feminist scholarship has a rich history of highlighting and criticizing practices that appear “neutral”; when we see our assessments as impartial, we are more likely to undervalue the work of students whose voices are already marginalized. Stenberg believes we must continue to identify the “cloak of neutrality” Adrienne Rich (1973) observed, which leads to a renewed focus on marginalized voices in the academy (p. 10).

Repurposing requires teacher-scholars to consider the ways in which race, gender, ethnicity, and other identity markers are not accounted for in the academy, and as a result, not accounted for in writing assessment. Chapter two considers emotion and emotional management as a critical part of feminist repurposing. Rather than support the reason/emotion binary advanced by classical rhetoric, Stenberg offers a more complex view of emotion, a concept she claims is often feminized and therefore devalued in the academy. Stenberg, however, reframes emotion as a feminist site of “resistance, inquiry, and new knowledge and writing practices” (p. 42), rather than as an “impediment to rationalism and productivity” (p. 41). Importantly, Stenberg identifies how quickly students dismiss emotion in written texts from marginalized groups, which not only upsets the student’s ability to engage with that text, but worse, condemns the text as “not worth engaging because of the writer’s presumed emotional state” (p. 57). For example, Stenberg quotes a student describing a passage from Gloria AnzaldĂșa’s work as “too angry to be useful” (p. 58). Her solution to this kind of dismissal is a repurposing of emotion—in the case of AnzaldĂșa, asking students to engage with how and why this emotional response can be seen as a rational, rhetorical move.

The act of recognizing the use and necessity of emotion in both authored and student texts is in keeping with the larger trend toward emotional education. Stenberg argues the importance of valuing our students as not only intellectual, but emotional individuals, and supports the emotional education movement that has grown in education for the past thirty years, which includes a feminist repurposing of writing practices. Stenberg traces how rhetorical practices have been remade according to traditionally masculine concepts such as cutting “excess,” and notes, “women’s rhetoric will often sound different than the self-assured, strident voices that have long defined the tradition” (p. 23). As a teacher, I encourage the kind of writing that comes from this masculinized tradition, just as I was trained and encouraged to do. Yet Stenberg’s arguments force me to evaluate how my own practices, some of which I had considered to be “neutral,” may actually represent gendered, ethnic, racial, and other standards that are decidedly not neutral. What we see as assessment according to “neutral” guidelines (essentially, the rules and restrictions that accompany academic discourse or Standard American English) may actual reinforce writing standards that potentially discriminate against marginalized identities.

In the third chapter, “Repurposed Listening,” Stenberg leans heavily on Krista Ratcliffe’s (1999) work, and asserts that corporate leaders have appropriated the act of listening for their own means—that listening becomes an act to gather client intel and gauge consumer desire and satisfaction. Listening is marketed as a skill needed for individual success. But through a feminist repurposing of listening, Stenberg identifies the act as a generative practice, one that encourages the reciprocity of speaking/listening to create new knowledge (p. 77). For this practice to be successful, however, it becomes necessary to understand how the speaker and listener are rhetorically situated through power dynamics, cultural differences/similarities and assumptions, among others (p. 77). Teacher-scholars must encourage students to create “arguments that listen,” a concept that acknowledges and accounts for a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints within the argument. This listening includes finding a located agency, wherein teachers and students take responsibility for their own positions and subjectivities as a way to understand how marginalized positions can serve as resources for “teaching, learning, and knowing” (p. 100).

Readers of this book will not, however, find a set of instructions on how to assess student writing. Rather, Stenberg’s solution calls us to shift from an accountability logic, which compares student writing to an external, predetermined norm, to a responsibility logic, which relies on transparency between educators, students, and community members to generate, rather than simply follow, a standard approach used for writing assessment. Repurposed responsibility is itself “grounded not in compliance” but rather in relation to dialogue and responding well to the individual (p. 137). By inviting multiple audiences into discussions about assessment, teacher-scholars can include rather than excluded public audiences and marginalized voices within a particular community (p. 135). Just as students should invite a multiplicity of voices into their arguments, so should teacher-scholars invite a multiplicity of voices into their assessment practices.

Overall, I find Stenberg’s Repurposing Composition a critical read for current teachers of writing, and an important text for providing real and practical examples of how feminist practices can be implemented in the writing classroom. As Stenberg herself admits, this repurposing is not easy; it requires reflection, listening, dialogue, and potentially failure (another concept Stenberg argues needs repurposing). Accountability methods can feel safe, because we have a norm from which to assess. Responsibility methods, however, view students as individual subjects and provide a much improved approach for assessing writing in the reality of a diversified academy.


Ratcliffe, K. (1999). Rhetorical Listening: A Trope for Interpretive Invention and a “Code of Cross-Cultural Conduct.” College Composition and Communication, 51(2), 195-224.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

JWA at CWPA 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina

Journal of Writing Assessment editorial team members will be attending the annual meeting of the Council of Writing Program Administrators in Raleigh, North Carolina, July 14-17, 2016.    Diane Kelly-Riley, Carl Whithaus, Jessica Nastal-Dema, and Ti Macklin will be at CWPA--please contact one of them if you'd like to discuss a potential project for JWA!

Also, authors from the 2015 JWA Special Issue on the Impact of the Common Core State Standards will be presenting on Friday, July 15, 2016 from 1:55-3:10 PM in Hannover I at the CWPA Conference.  Please join us for "Impacts and Implications of the Common Core State Standards Assessments for WPAs, Writing Faculty, and Postsecondary Writing Instruction."  The panel is comprised of Diane Kelly-Riley, University of Idaho; Brad Jacobson, University of Arizona; Sherry Rankins-Robertson, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Duane Roen, Arizona State University; Session Chair: Tialitha Macklin, formerly of Washington State University and now California State University Sacramento; Respondent: Carl Whithaus, University of California-Davis.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Special Issue on the Theory of Ethics for Writing Assessment

The Journal of Writing Assessment is pleased to announce the publication of the 2016 Special Issue on the Theory of Ethics for Writing Assessment authored by David Slomp, Norbert Elliot, Mya Poe, John Cogan, Jr., Bob Broad, and Ellen Cushman.

We're pleased to share this excellent and important research with you.   Access this special issue at http://journalofwritingassessment.org.

JWA at the Independent Rhetoric and Composition Journals Table TODAY

Are you at 4C16?  Stop by and meet Bruce Bowles, Jr., co-editor of the JWA Reading List and of Florida State University.  He'll be at the Independent Rhetoric and Composition Journals Table today in the Exhibition Hall on the Fourth Floor of the Hilton of the Americas.

He'd love to talk with you about potential reviews for the JWA Reading List or give you more information about publication opportunities through the Journal of Writing Assessment.