Let Them In: Increasing Access, Completion, and Equity in English Placement Policies at a Two-Year California Community College

March 2019

This article uses a disparate impact analysis framework to assess the impact of a policy change in writing assessment that roughly doubled the proportion of students placing into college English at Butte College, a two-year college in California. After establishing the disparate impact of placement, we tracked how students performed in college English, subsequent college courses, and overall college completion under the new policy. We found that substantially more students completed college English compared to previous cohorts, with Asian, African American, Latinx, and Native American students’ completion of college English doubling or tripling. Upon taking subsequent college courses, students placing into college English under the new policy performed as well as those who had qualified for college English under the more restrictive policy. Overall college completion outcomes, including degree completion and meeting the criteria for transferring to 4-year universities, have generally improved and become more equitable since the 2011 policy change. These findings suggest that broadening access to college English can be a powerful lever for reducing racial and ethnic gaps in the completion of college English and may help to reduce gaps in the attainment of other, longer-term college completion outcomes.

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Publication: Journal of Writing Assessment
Author(s): Leslie Henson and Katie Hern

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