Introduction: Writing Assessment, Placement, and the Two-Year College
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Introduction: Writing Assessment, Placement, and the Two-Year College

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Two-year colleges are experiencing rapid change, much of which is driven by reform-minded higher education researchers, philanthropists, and policymakers seeking to improve degree completion rates in the nation's open-admissions community colleges. As part of this broader push for reform, placement has come under increased scrutiny, and many two-year colleges are reevaluating and reimagining longstanding placement practices. To set the context for the 2019 special issue of Journal of Writing Assessment on Writing Placement at Two-Year Colleges, this introductory essay reviews five scholarly conversations essential for understanding the issues and stakes: 1) the distinctive histories, missions, demographics, and constraints and opportunities of open admissions two-year colleges; 2) the nature, problems, and possibilities of the reform pressures currently bearing on two-year colleges and placement; 3) the history of writing placement assessment and the theoretical debates surrounding its purposes and efficacy; 4) the recent ethical turn in writing assessment toward sociocultural models of validity and implications for writing placement at two-year colleges; and 5) emerging calls in two-year college writing studies for teacher-scholar-activism and critical reform that encourage faculty to take responsibility for challenging inequitable placement processes.

Keywords: two-year colleges, placement, developmental education reform, ethics, teacher-scholar-activism

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