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Adoption of, enrollment in, and teacher workload for the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum in California high schools


The Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) is a college preparatory English language arts course designed to enhance the abilities of students through rhetorical analyses of compelling issues and interesting texts. In order to inform the organizations that support the infrastructure of the ERWC as they seek to make the ERWC more widely available across the state, this study was designed to explore the characteristics of schools that have adopted the ERWC, the characteristics of students enrolled in the course, and the teacher workloads for the course. The study was also intended to inform a wider audience of policymakers and educators who are interested in strengthening postsecondary readiness by expanding opportunities for high school students to take courses similar to the ERWC. This study used two data sources: 1) data collected by the Center for the Advancement of Reading and Writing at the California State University Chancellor’s Office, which includes all the schools that have adopted the ERWC, and 2) data from the California Department of Education, which includes data on all courses taught at California public schools and the demographic characteristics of the students enrolled in each course. Descriptive statistics were used to address the research questions. Slightly more than half of California high schools had adopted the ERWC as of 2016/17. The course adoption rate was lower in rural areas than in cities, suburbs, and towns. The adoption rate increased with school size. Among schools that reported having students enrolled in the ERWC and in other grade 12 mainstream college preparatory English courses, higher percentages of Hispanic students and English learner students were enrolled in the ERWC. Among these same schools, ERWC class sections tended to have larger class sizes than those of other grade 12 mainstream college preparatory English courses. Rural and smaller schools may face barriers to adoption. Higher rates of Hispanic students and English learner students were enrolled in the ERWC. ERWC teachers tended to have larger workloads compared to non-ERWC English teachers. The ERWC Steering Committee, which oversees the overall direction of the course, may consider: 1) conducting further investigations to identify barriers that make it less likely for rural and smaller schools to adopt the course, and then possibly creating supports to help these schools overcome the barriers; 2) updating topics for some specific modules to make them more culturally relevant to Hispanic students or to meet the cognitive and linguistic needs of English learner students; and 3) updating the design of professional learning to account for the realities of teachers’ workloads. The findings may also help inform the developers of other transition courses, institutions of higher education, and policymakers more generally. Other states who seek to scale similar curricula may use these patterns to benchmark their own initiatives. Schools face tradeoffs when determining appropriate class sizes, and the study’s information on the ERWC class sizes can provide a useful reference point for policymakers that are interested in implementing courses similar to the ERWC.

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Publication Date:
October 2019