A colleague of mine who teaches English initiated an online discussion at 
our college about the literacy level among students placing into our lowest 
level developmental reading and writing courses (his note is appended to 
this message).  He asked me to share the note with all of you to see if we 
could learn from experiences and insights at other colleges.  In particular, 
do you see similar issues in your developmental reading and writing courses 
and, if so, do you have any recommendations for dealing with these issues?

Here is the note:

Within the English dept. over the past few months we have been taking a hard 
look at the two lowest levels of developmental reading & writing.  After a 
good deal of discussion, here is our consensus, very much condensed:

       Students at these levels demonstrate sub-high-school literacy (first 
on standardized placement tests, later verified via classroom assessment).

       We question whether it is appropriate to admit students with this 
literacy level as regular, matriculated college students.

       We also are very concerned about the phenomenon of very low literacy 
students taking college-level courses at the 100 and even 200 level.

       We question whether the current system is best for these students, 
regarding their academic progress and related to other issues such as 
expenses and financial aid.

We would like to talk about other approaches to meeting the needs of very 
low literacy students which might improve upon current practices. Some 
possibilities that have come up include non-credit college-literacy-prep 
courses, expanding academic ESL offerings, identifying community resources 
for referrals, etc.

Thanks for your comments and insights,

Geoff Krader
Morton College
Cicero, Illinois

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