In response to Martha Maxwell's comments about "right to fail"--yes,
administrators (myself excepted) DO see less value in developmental students
given the boomlet.  In
Massachusetts we are in the last phases of a large student drought--all 15
community colleges have had declines in enrollments of 10- 15% and more over the
past 4-5 years.  So access has had a financial benefit, since in this area more
than 50 colleges are vying for the dwindling student pool--this has been an
opportunity for us to build remedial programs that work, if we can show that
the students we accept and teach move on and eventually graduate.  We've had a
president at my college who really believes in this approach as a financial
survival strategy, as well as a philosophy.  He's retiring and the new VP is
making noises about "outsourcing."

I don't buy it for a minute.  My husband
has worked for these companies, and they do test prep,not education.  In my job
I have seen that nationally normed short-answer tests in reading and writing do
not accurately reflect actual reading nd writing ability at the developing
levels.  They reflect social class, and they are far too blunt an instrument to
be used for the kinds of benchmarking assessment and curriculum development we
need to provide true, ongoing access for students to increasingly advanced
levels of learning.  In short, increasing their reading test scores does not
help them to read in authentic situations.  My favorite line about these tests
(I wish I'd said this) is that you might as well ask the students how many
bathrooms in their houses and save all that paper--the results are the same.

So in my view outsourcing to the test-prep companies is just
another detour for higher education--another way in which we are led to
marginalize student populations different from the Class of 1960.  It's the old
remedial room all over again--Take em outa
college, get them up to speed (make them American while you're at it--don't
worry, we won't hold our breath!) and if they should ever make it to where we
believe they should be functioning, they can come to real college.  Where we
stand in front of our classrooms with the tab-arm chairs all in rows and
lecture in standard American English (My god, some of these people don't even
understand ENGLISH!)  The truth is, that kind of teaching doesn't reach a LOT
of students, and a LOT of supposed learning is just the ability to handle
testing and paper-production.  The students who test developmental are just the
tip of the iceberg.  And we are the Titanic.

Think about these tutoring companies--what do the workers make?  What academic
preparation and support for ongoing growth do they receive?  How long do any of
them stay at this work?  Their materials are secret (the workers have to sign
an agreement not to work at a rival tutoring company for 5 years after working
at one of them) and these materials are controversial because they are borrowed
from the national tests!!  Where is the learning there?  It's a bald and
cynical shell game, I'm afraid.

As compared to what?  To the authentic integration of literacy-based teaching
in each and everu college classroom--to basic instruction in academic
literacies that allows students access to the broad and deep uses in their own
lives of the linguistic strategies they are learning to employ--not a set of
test questions that are purposely decontextualized to increase the chance of a
wrong guess.

I get so mad about all this I get inarticulat4--what do you all think?