The Misuse of Writing Assessment for Political Purposes
This article focuses on the political dimensions of writing assessment, outlining how various uses of writing assessment have been motivated by political rather than educational, administrative, and professional concerns. Focusing on major purposes for writing assessment, this article examines state-mandated writing assessments for high school students, placement testing for incoming college students, and upper class college writing assessments such as rising junior tests and other exit measures that are supposed to determine whether students can write well enough to be granted a college degree. Each of these assessments represents a gate through which students must pass if they are to gain access to the privileges and enhanced salaries of college graduates, and so they carry a particular social weight along with their academic importance. In other words, each of these tests carry significant consequences or high stakes. According to the most recent and informed articulations of validity, each of the cases examined in this article require increased attention to the decisions being made and the consequences for students, teachers, and educational institutions. In each case, this article addresses the political reasons why these assessments are set in motion and point to the inner contradictions that make it quite impossible for them ever to accomplish their vaguely stated purposes.