Kentucky: Council on Postsecondary Education

How To Reduce the Need For Postsecondary Remediation in English

For P-12 Educators
  1. Expect students to demonstrate competence in several kinds of writing. By graduation, high school students should be prepared to write for a variety of audiences and purposes. Before beginning postsecondary study, students should practice using source materials to pose and support an argument in expository form.
  2. Include performance scores for writing portfolio on student transcripts.
  3. Teach reading, writing, oral communication, active listening, and media and technology literacy at all levels of the P-12 system.
For Postsecondary Institutions
  1. Use the Kentucky Department of Education Holistic Scoring Guide to assess college-level writing competency. The literacy team does not unanimously recommend using KDE writing portfolio evaluations for postsecondary placement, but it views the KDE's criteria for proficient writing (defined audience and purpose, idea development, organization, sentence structure, language, and correct use of language in college) useful for evaluating writing at all levels, including college.
  2. Publish and make easily available college placement criteria and policies. Each postsecondary institution should identify and publish criteria and policies for entry-level and remedial course placement in their catalogues and on their Web sites. The Council on Postsecondary Education should post this information on its Web site.
  3. Review the effectiveness of placement mechanisms.
    • Postsecondary institutions should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their placement tests and policies, including use of the ACT.
    • The Council on Postsecondary Education should regularly review the effectiveness of its Mandatory Placement Policy.
  4. Train P-12 teachers in all content fields to teach reading, writing, oral communication, active listening, media literacy, and use of technology. The literacy team recognizes that all are connected. To reduce the need for remediation, teacher preparation programs should include training in five areas:
    • Reading: Prepare P-12 teachers to teach reading skills in all fields, be sensitive to reading disabilities, make referrals appropriately, and teach critical reading skills necessary to their disciplines. Reading should be a concern of teachers and faculty (see Recommendation 8) at all levels and in all disciplines, not just primarily through third grade.
    • Writing: Students need frequent writing assignments in all content areas, not only English composition and literature. Students learn the importance of writing for a variety of purposes only if writing is taught throughout a curriculum.
    • Oral communication: The ability to communicate orally affects a student's ability to write and to succeed at the postsecondary level. Though postsecondary institutions do not require remedial work in oral communication, it should be included in the curriculum and teacher preparation programs.
    • Active listening: Listening is related to reading critically and communicating clearly. Active listening contributes directly to success in postsecondary study and in the work world. Though most postsecondary institutions do not offer separate courses in listening, postsecondary educators should teach the skill of active listening in their programs, including those preparing P-12 teachers.
    • Media literacy and use of technology: Postsecondary institutions in Kentucky do not require remedial study either in computer use or in media literacy. The literacy team recognizes the need, in learning and in life, to be able to interpret an array of visual media, including advertisements and political propaganda. Technology commands ever greater importance in our institutions and in the workplace. Students entering postsecondary study or work without computer skills and media literacy are unprepared.
  5. Train postsecondary faculty in all disciplines how to teach writing, critical reading, effective oral communication, active listening, and media and technological literacy. Good teachers demonstrate literacy skills through effective reading and writing assignments and discussion. Include the skill of demonstrating literacy in graduate school training (see Recommendation 9 for classroom teachers at all levels below).
For Classroom Teachers at All Levels
  1. Form local alliances among P-12 teachers and postsecondary faculty focusing on reading, writing, oral communication, active listening, and media and technological literacy across content areas at all levels.

The Literacy Alignment Team reviewed the following:

  • Postsecondary admissions standards and placement policies and mechanisms. (K PDF)
  • P-12 curriculum and assessment standards in writing and reading. (Program of Studies and Core Content for Assessment, KDE benchmark papers exemplifying standards for evaluating writing portfolios, and the Holistic Scoring Guide outlining standards for evaluating portfolio writing samples) The Program of Studies outlines the minimum content required for all students to graduate from Kentucky schools. The Core Content for Assessment is the content identified as essential for all students to know. It is included in the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) by which schools and districts are evaluated.
  • Descriptions of skills and competencies indicated by ACT test scores in English and reading. (ACT Standards for Transition)
  • National standards for writing, reading, and oral communication (National Assessment of Education Progress writing standards, National Council of Teachers of English writing standards, International Reading Association reading standards, and National Communication Association oral communication standards).
  • Skills and competency standards published by other states (Oregon and Colorado).
  • Student writing samples (high school portfolios, postsecondary placement tests, and freshmen writing assignments).
  • High school graduation requirements and the Pre-College Curriculum.
  • SCANS (Secretary's Commission for Achieving Necessary Skills) competencies and skills summarized in the Partnership for Kentucky Schools' Ready for Work: Essential Skills for Kentucky Jobs.

P-12 teachers were familiar with KDE curriculum and assessment measures; postsecondary representatives were generally unfamiliar with the P-12 system. P-12 teachers were generally unaware of postsecondary entrance-level placement processes. Postsecondary representatives were familiar with the admissions and placement policies of their own institutions, but some were not aware of how they compared with those of other institutions.

The Literacy Alignment Team approached the problem of college-readiness by focusing on disjunctions between the P-12 assessment system, high school graduation requirements, and college admission and placement requirements.

  • With some exceptions, low high school grades (other than "F") and performance on CATS assessments do not prevent high school graduation, and the ACT is irrelevant to high school graduation. But course distribution, grades, and ACT scores have direct bearing on four-year college admission and entry-level placement. (The Kentucky Community and Technical College System uses two other ACT devices: COMPASS, a computer-based diagnostic test, and ASSET, a pencil-and-paper version.)

Team members found it difficult to specify college-readiness in writing and how to measure it.

  • Many team members were dissatisfied with the ACT English test, which uses a multiple-choice format and focuses almost exclusively on editorial skills (grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax), with a heavy emphasis on analysis of literary texts.Many team members objected to the notion that good writing can be defined out of context-without attention to genre, audience, and purpose.
Instead, they examined high school, college placement, and freshman student writing samples (without identification of the sample's origin, grade level of the author, or the actual evaluation the writing received), using the criteria outlined in the KDE Holistic Scoring Guide. To their surprise, literacy team members found remarkable agreement in ranking the student writing samples they examined as "novice," "apprentice," "proficient," and "distinguished" according to criteria established by the scoring guide. Literacy team members observed the following:KDE standards of proficient writing are reasonable and desirable.
  • KDE standards of proficient writing are reasonable and desirable.
  • Students meeting the KDE proficiency standard would likely be placed in an entry-level English course.Writing that fails to meet KDE standards of proficiency is not the same as writing that indicates a need for remedial education. A student who writes at a level evaluated as less than proficient might still be ready to learn at a college level, but at some point deficiencies are too severe.The KDE writing portfolio requires demonstration of writing skills in a variety of forms, but does not include either college-style research papers or expository essays because many view them as pervasive within academic settings and of limited value outside them. Some team members characterized the basic essay and the basic research paper as formulaic and providing an inadequate means for judging or teaching good writing. Others saw these writing forms as such fundamental components of postsecondary education that they should be included in a high school curriculum that is designated pre-college. Exposure to these writing forms before entering postsecondary programs provides students with basic survival skills for writing college papers and taking tests. These writing forms serve as basic and flexible organizational and reasoning blueprints easily adapted to a variety of purposes.

Throughout the joint reading of student writing samples, team members addressed the impact of reading, oral communication, and familiarity with technology on the ability to write and to be prepared for a wide range of postsecondary study and work. They also considered the preparation that educators at all levels and all disciplines will need to reduce the need for postsecondary remedial placement in English and reading.


Last Updated 6/16/2005