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How a recent study is shaping the dissemination and development of an English transition course for high school seniors

July 2020

A project update from the College Preparation Partnership

How can we make sure students are prepared for college-level reading and writing when they enter college? California’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) was designed to do just that—improve the academic literacy of high school seniors.

As follow-up to a 2015 study that found that the ERWC had a positive impact on student achievement, REL West’s recent report on the ERWC provides important insights for the ERWC development team about who is enrolled in this course, where it is offered, and what the workload is for ERWC teachers.

In this blog, we take a look at how, based on findings from the 2019 report, REL West is supporting efforts to improve the ERWC’s reach and professional learning for teachers.

Learn more about transition curricula and the rationale for reducing enrollment in remedial education by downloading our infographic:

Transition Courses: Building a Bridge to College Success

What is the ERWC?

The Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum is a 12th grade transition curriculum collaboratively designed by California State University (CSU) faculty, high school English language arts teachers, and K–12 administrators. It covers a variety of expository and informational text, emphasizing the in-depth study of expository, analytical, and argumentative reading and writing.

A 2015 study of the ERWC found that the curriculum has a statistically significant positive impact on student achievement. Since the CSU stopped offering remedial coursework in 2018; the ERWC is now one of several strategies implemented in California’s high schools to ensure students are ready for college-level coursework.

ERWC adoption rates

Our 2019 study found that only slightly over half of all high schools in California had adopted the curriculum as of the 2016/17 school year. Adoption rates were lower in rural schools than in city, suburban, and town schools.

In response to these findings, the regional Early Assessment Program (EAP) coordinators— representatives of the CSU campuses tasked with sharing information with high schools about how students can prepare for CSU admission—are working to identify barriers that keep high schools from adopting the curriculum and brainstorm ways to overcome those barriers. For example, a workgroup of EAP coordinators has developed outreach materials to promote the ERWC and encourage adoption at schools. REL West is working with this group to discuss the ways EAP coordinators can encourage adoption of the ERWC and ultimately increase students’ preparation for college-level coursework.

ERWC teacher workload

Another finding from the study is that ERWC classes tend to be larger than other English classes. REL West is working with the curriculum developers to update and refine professional learning for ERWC teachers to help these teachers manage the larger workload.

“I was excited to see that [a teacher] had incorporated some of the suggestions from our previous sessions into her classes. She and I had some back and forth a few months ago with regard to the need for student collaboration, and it was clear she had adjusted a little bit during today's lesson.” – ERWC Coach

This professional learning not only includes direct coaching for teachers, but training for the coaches themselves. To support this, REL West helped the ERWC development team create a protocol for virtual professional learning and planning meetings for coaches. This provided structure for coaches to discuss how to guide teachers to employ an inquiry-based, student-centered pedagogical approach. Turning the work over to the students allows them to become independent learners while alleviating some of the teachers’ workload. REL West also provided resources for the creation of a protocol for coaches to use when observing and providing feedback to ERWC teachers, which facilitated teacher reflection and capacity-building.

REL West is pleased that the findings from this study are informing more strategic dissemination of the ERWC and better supports for teachers. We’re proud to be working with the CSU and its partners to improve postsecondary preparation.

To learn more about REL West’s work with the CSU and access resources on postsecondary pathways, please visit the following pages:

For more information on all REL West work on Postsecondary Pathways, please visit our topic page.