Task Force Recommends Retiring JEPET Test
September 29, 2005 7:10 PM
Students sick of the JEPET might be relieved that SF State may get rid of the test, but only until they hear that additional English courses may be required.
“It’s simply a waste of money,” said geography major John Niemczyk, 27, about the $40 fee for the test. “Anybody who transfers as a junior should have taken those (composition) classes. There’s no excuse not to be able to write.”
He felt that the timed pressure to finish the test resulted in unreasonable thinking that the test uses unrealistic language on the essay assignment.
“Quite frankly, no one talks like the JEPET,” Niemczyk said.
According to Dr. Dan Buttlaire, undergraduate dean of the Writing Task Force and chemistry professor at SF State for nearly three decades, recent research finds “high stakes” tests like JEPET lacking in reliability and validity. Almost 2,000 students failed the JEPET last year: nearly half of those who took the test.
“The task force recommends phasing out JEPET over a three to five year period,” Buttlaire said.
Buttlaire told the Academic Senate on September 20 that the task force still wants feedback from the campus. Phasing out the JEPET and improving the instruction for undergraduate English are among the recommendations the task force made.
The task force, made up of representatives from SF State’s different colleges, is working to “transform the role of writing at the university,” according to a September 17th report, outlining plans and goals to change the way students are taught English competency.
The first of these key recommendations is that performance on a single, time-limited essay should no longer be the basis for certifying proficiency in written English, according to the Writing Task Force report.
Hundreds have responded to the task force after it sent e-mails to students and faculty in early September asking for campus-wide input and commentary on SF State’s writing program. Many of the comments were highly critical of the JEPET and praised the task force for its bold proposals.
English literature major Ben Kim does not like the Modern Language Association (MLA) format used in the test and thinks that good writing does not have to stick to such strict rules. The 30-year-old senior also did not like having to write an argumentative essay on something he knew nothing about.
“Why do I have to make an argument to begin with; to pick a side,” Kim said. “It leaves less room for more complex answers. Reality isn’t that simple.”
James Boyd, administrative support coordinator in the English composition office, warned that students should not get too excited about the proposal. If the test is no longer used, all students, regardless of class standing, will have to take English 414 in order to graduate.
He maintained that the process in developing the test is very thorough, but it still has its shortfalls.
“No test is perfect,” he said.
Boyd, who also teaches English 414, lets his students vent their frustrations with the test, but maintains that the test is a far cheaper alternative than returning to mandatory composition classes.
“Students don’t like to take writing classes,” Boyd said.
Juniors and seniors who have not taken the JEPET, and have at least 80 units, are denied priority registration, and must often wait to get into a first or second year English composition class, pushing back graduation plans.
The writing task force will be accepting comments on its website until October 14, when it will use the input to revise its current draft by November 15. Visit their site atwww.sfsu.edu/~ugs/wtf.html
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