High school seniors who enrolled in the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) scored higher on average on the English Placement Test (EPT) compared to non-ERWC students, according to a July 2015 evaluation report by WestEd. Developed by California State University (CSU) faculty and high school teachers and administrators, the ERWC is an English course designed to reduce the need for developmental English courses in college. Currently, 822 high schools throughout California have adopted the full ERWC course at the 12th grade level.

As the nation’s largest producer of highly qualified teachers, the CSU funds ERWC and other professional learning for California high school teachers. CSU faculty continue to create and teach the ERWC modules, sharing their expertise as the state’s leaders in teacher preparation and professional learning. Certification workshops are available year-round, with an estimate of 1,600 participants annually. Workshops are coordinated by local county offices of education and are co-led by a higher education faculty member (CSU or community college) and a local education specialist (high school teacher or a county of education administrator).

“The ERWC is an important cornerstone of the CSU’s multi-faceted approach to
supporting college readiness among California’s high school students,” explained Joe Aguerrebere, interim assistant vice chancellor of Teacher Preparation and Public School Programs. “ERWC, as well as the CSU’s Early Assessment Program and Early Start, work together to support Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to reduce the time that students invest on CSU campuses to earn undergraduate degrees. With ERWC, students earn passing college admission test scores and are placed in college-level coursework, which reduces their time to degree completion.”

Each ERWC module focuses on a theme or topic that is relevant to real world situations. Classroom practices include analyzing arguments, comparing written texts, group discussions, and writing in response reading. After completing a minimum of 8-10 modules during their senior year of high school, students have sharpened their reading and writing processes, critical thinking, and oral language skills. The ERWC consists of activities similar to the Smarter Balanced assessments, which are used to ascertain attainment of grade-level standards. As a result, the ERWC prepares students to succeed on state assessments in addition to the EPT.

“Improvement in the quality of students’ essays is significant when comparing their work produced in the beginning of the year to later in the year; the impact of the ERWC is obvious,” said Barbara Lapp, English teacher at Murrieta Valley High School. “The modules are based on current real world topics, such as bullying and juvenile justice, driving students to research and analyze as they build their independent opinions. They are able to respond in conversation with a lot more ammunition.”

Nancy Brynelson, Co-Director of the Center for the Advancement of Reading at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, points out, “The WestEd study affirms that ERWC is successful in targeting critical learning gaps in high school seniors. Improvement in EPT scores prove that the ERWC is a pivotal tool in preparing students for success.”

The ERWC is also available for grades seven to 11. For more information on ERWC or to register for a teacher workshop, visit https://www.calstate.edu/eap/englishcourse/.