Failing The EWP Test
As a teacher of writing and a student of language, I have read your series on the EWP with
interest. Along the way a few questions have come to mind, and I wonder if you had any of the same ones.
We learn that something like 93 percent of “native speakers” pass the EWP. Since we encounter
numerous varieties of native English in our environment, I wonder if data are available to account for the English varieties spoken among the 7percent non-passing population.
It is said that 60 percent of nonnative speakers pass. This seems to include both immigrant and international second language students. Members of both subsets of the non-passing population are anticipating graduation; they have successfully passed courses in their majors, including, usually, the
upper division writing requirement. How many of these non-passing students were passed by their
upper division writing instructors and other teachers, while remaining incapable of generating basic prose that meets the minimum criteria for content, organization and grammaticality that constitute the EWP rubric (and presumably, the style conventions of their discipline)?
CSUF accepts transfers from many institutions, but I wonder how many of the non-passing groups took their basic writing and college writing (English 101 level) courses here at CSUF and passed classes despite the deficiencies evidenced by their eventual performance on the EWP.
And specifically, when I read the comments that account for different discourse practices between Chinese and Japanese, for example, and English, I think about the fact that as students here, it is the culture in place here that supplies the norms that form the presuppositions for any examination. Isn’t that part of what near-graduates would have been learning during their four, five, or six years of study here?
If an article went into this depth with insight, that would really be worth reading!
Robert D. Angus
Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics