In a message dated 1/22/99 10:27:22 AM Central Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

<< I can't cite sources off the top of my head, but several years ago, when we
were looking for the same information, the vast majority of sources we found
support the validity of the more objective test.  Very few supported the essay
over the test.  However, working with our faculty we reached a compromise
which, I think, is working pretty well.

 We chose the College Board's Accuplacer computerized test as the first
determiner.  After setting score ranges for placement into our pre-college or
college writing courses, we then decided that, if a student seemed on the
borderline between two courses (i.e., just a few points from passing out the
lower-level course, we would give that student the option of accepting the
placement or writing an essay on a pre-determined topic and having it
holistically graded by two faculty.  If the essay confirmed the placement,
that's were the student stayed, but, if the faculty determined that the essay
showed sufficient skill to enter the higher course, the student was placed
into theat higher course.

 As I said, it seems to be working well so far.  In fact, one thing we've
learned is that the test is a pretty good indicator.  While there have,
certainly, been a number of replacements, the majority of the time, the essay
confirms the original placement.

 Also, we allow students to take the test twice; if they are not happy with
their original placement, we encourage them to spend some time reviewing the
material (in our AV library or Learning Assistance Lab) and retake test at a
later date.

 Hope this helps.  It owuld be interesting to hear what the rest of us are
doing, so, I hope, people will post to the list, not just privately.


 >>> John Haslem <[log in to unmask]> 01/22 4:28 AM >>>
 My college is presently trying to figure out some very important things, like
 who should teach writing and how should it be taught.  Currently, we're
 interested in diagnostic exams and are considering requiring them of incoming
 freshmen as a guide for placement into skill-appropriate classes, i.e., ESL
 College Writing II.  My sense is that a diagnostic exam, part objective
 grammar test and part written essay, would be a very effective way of
 screening for placement.  But I don't know that research supports my sense.
 Can anyone cite sources that suggest diagnostic exams are or are not
 tools for measuring student writing skills?

 John Haslem
 Knox College

I'm beginning to feel like something of a veteran in relation to 'placement'
tests for sorting out which courses students may benefit from the most. I have
taught at schools that rely solely on a standardized test like COMPASS and
others that use a writing sample to determine the best placement. As a teacher
of developmental writing and Freshman Comp., I have found that the
standardized tests do a fairly good job of sorting out those who would benefit
from a developmental writing course, but with every such course I teach I find
at least two or three students with good writing skills who should not have
been placed in developmental writing.

I am, therefore, a strong advocate of a writing sample that can be used in
conjunction with the standardized test or by itself. So long as faculty know
that their first class is an opportunity to check the proper placement of
students, we have another opportunity to correct mistakes in placement.
Departments of English must be flexible in allowing for students to move up or
down during that first week or two.

Richard Damashek
Director of Developmental Studies
Calumet College of St. Joseph
Whiting, IN