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the questions were:
>For instance, do you do a written essay test that is pass/fail?  A portfolio?
>Do students pass based on the teachers'assessment of them? Is there a
>pre-test?
>If you do a written test at the semester's end, what are the logistics?
>For example, do they do it spontaneously?  By hand or computer?  Out of
>class?  If they fail, is there a fall-back assessment procedure?  Is
>there one topic?
>If you do a portfolio, how does that work?  Do you read portfolios of
>every student?  What is in the portfolio?  What is your timeframe for
>reading these?
>Have you defined standards for these essays?  How do you manipulate
>strengths and weaknesses in critical thinking, grammar, and content
>development and support?
>The bottom line question:  Is your assessment tool one that assesses
>students as its main purpose or does it assess your writing program as
>its main purpose?
Donna Alden
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Here, at Mass Bay Community College, we have had an exit assessment in place
for the past five years.  It is a two part affair involving a four hour timed
writing sample based on a packet of 6 - 7 articles distributed 2 weeks prior to
the assessment; the second part is a student's portolio which contains three
essays written over the course of the term.
We have 7 levels of composition that a student may place into based on the
results of a placement test (a 75 minute writing sample where students read
three brief articles and respond to a prompt).  All samples are read
holisitically by at least two trained readers; students must take the course
they place into and they progress into the next course (or above) based on
their end of term assessment which is separate from the course grade that the
instructor gives.

All assessments, whether placement, timed exit, or portfolio, are read by a
majority of the faculty and when read, are anonymous.  We have no idea of the
student's name or the course/level they are currently in.  This has been
invaluable in checking our own biases.

Logistically, students have a two week period at the end of the semester,
where they may take the assessment in class or in the computer lab.  Classes
themselves are cancelled (or, for students electing to handwrite their exams,
are held for the sole purpose of allowing time for the exit).

Our standards (rubrics) are very well defined and are refined each semester
when we do a norming based on current semester samples of portfolios and timed
writing.  These standards are awlasy distributed to all instructors and
students so that all are aware of what is expected.  There is only one topic
and one prompt--designed very carefully to ensure that all students at all
levels can demonstrate their best ability.  If students do not pass into the
writing level that they desire based on their exit, the department then reads
the student's portfolio.  Higher score prevails.

The assessment tool has two functions--one, to critically and "objectively"
evaluate our students' competence levels and two, to act as a professional
development tool with our faculty, allowing them to grow in their abilities as
composition teachers.

There is a lot more I could say, but, this is the bare bones of our program.