UNLV considers proficiency exams
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Administrators currently testing possible required writing assessments
UNLV undergraduates could soon be required to pass a writing proficiency test during their junior year in order to graduate.
According to the proposal put forth by the Rising Junior Writing Competency Work Group, employers have criticised UNLV bachelors degree recipients’ writing competency.
The Rising Junior Writing Competency Testing was proposed to ensure that all UNLV bachelor’s degree recipients are competent writers.
The pilot program for the assessments is currently running and approximately 1,000 students from the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Hotel Administration are undergoing what could become a mandatory test of their writing skills.
Rising Junior Competency Work Group said they chose students for the pilot from the liberal arts college because they typically do more writing than many other majors. The hotel college was chosen because it includes large percentages of international students.
The group asserts that testing such radically different groups during the pilot period will reveal what might be expected with university-wide implementation.
Chris Hudgins, dean of the liberal arts college at UNLV initiated the program and said he hopes it will help the reputation and credibility of the university.
“We want to ensure our students and our public that a student with a UNLV degree is literate and competent at writing proficiency,” Hudgins said.
The group stated that it hopes campus-wide implementation of the program is possible by fall 2012.
“If the pilot runs as it’s expected to then we will propose that it become mandatory,” Hudgins said.
The pilot testing is being administered by the Academic Success Center.
The students who will be affected if the proposal is accepted are those who have completed 60 or more credit hours.
According to the proposal, students who have completed 90 credit hours and have not taken the proficiency exam will not be allowed to register for classes until the requirement has been satisfied.
Hudgins said the testing will involve three possibilities that will take care of the requirement should it become official.
One is a standardized national test called CAPP, which has already been used in the English department and according to Hudgins, has been successful in the past.
If the student does not meet the CAPP score that is required to demonstrate writing competency they have a few other options to choose from.
They can undergo a different kind of testing called a portfolio of writing, which consists of two essays that are graded by a UNLV professor. The other essay would be taken at the Academic Success Center and taken from a writing prompt. The final portfolio would then be reviewed by Academic Success Center personnel.
If a student is still having trouble demonstrating writing proficiency, more help will be offered.
Hudgins says they will offer an online “writing tune-up” class that could fulfill the requirement as well.
The cost of the pilot program for fall 2011 is approximately $30,000.
If the plan is adopted and the testing becomes an undergraduate requirement, students can expect to demonstrate proficiency in order to receive their degrees.
The cost of the writing proficiency test will cost students $25 in addition to their regular undergraduate tuition and fees.
Hotel college student Paul Boone does not feel that the test should be a requirement for graduation, but he does see a problem with students lacking in terms of writing proficiency.
Boone said the place that has helped him the most at UNLV is the writing center.
“The most useful tool on campus is the writing center,” Boone said. “If you are questioning your writing skills, that’s the place to go.”
Boone says the lack of writing proficiency can be partially blamed on addiction to technology.
“I think the reason employers are complaining about writing proficiency is because of social media,” Boone said.
Boone explained that constant texting and computers may also be to blame.
“We do this so much, writing skills keep on declining,” he said.
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