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Student works on a word board in YVC's Writing Center

Book highlighting YVC’s success advancing equity in English instruction receives award

Yakima Valley College English faculty were recently among authors honored with the Council for Writing Program Administrators’ Best Book Award.

YVC’s English department has taken significant steps in recent years to overhaul how it places students in writing courses at the start of their college career — providing students with a strong start and allowing greater support for historically underserved populations. Those efforts were highlighted in a chapter of the 2022 book “Writing Placement in Two-Year Colleges: The Pursuit of Equity in Postsecondary Education.”

Co-authored by YVC English instructors Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt and Travis Margoni, their chapter “Narrowing the Divide in Placement at a Hispanic-Serving Institution: The Case of Yakima Valley College” offers insights for other community colleges interested in reforming writing placement assessment to advance educational access and equity.

Calhoon-Dillahunt said that since YVC implemented the placement changes during 2016-17, the college has exceeded expectations and goals. Prior to the change, about two-thirds of students placed into developmental writing courses (ENGL 90T or ENGL 95). Now, about two-thirds of students place directly into a college-level English course (ENGL& 101), while maintaining a high success rate.

“While historically underserved students of color are still over-represented in developmental coursework, placement-related equity gaps have closed substantially, and success rates are equitable,” Calhoon-Dillahunt said. At the time the chapter was written, YVC led Washington state’s community and technical college system in the percentage of students who completed their gateway English courses within the first year.

“This means that students not only save time and money, they also are able to more quickly access other college courses that have writing prerequisites, which is an important factor in retention and completion,” Calhoon-Dillahunt said. “Having a tool that places students more equitably from the start of their college career helps reduce equity gaps in other areas.”

Reforming how students are placed into English courses is one of many ongoing efforts at YVC to advance more equitable outcomes for students. Read more about these efforts.