By Jennifer Fletcher
The question of whether ERWC “works”–i.e., measurably improves student learning outcomes–is one that we’re asked continually. Administrators, in particular, understandably would like to know if there is evidence that Cal State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum is effective.
Over the years, we’ve had numerous evidence-based ways to respond to this question. In the early days, a qualitative pilot study by Dr. Mira-Lisa Katz, a literacy researcher at Sonoma State University, documented the ways ERWC promoted student engagement and success. Survey data collected from teachers who participated in ERWC workshops and taught at least two ERWC modules were evaluated against surveys from a comparison group of teachers. The pilot study also examined student assessment data. The findings indicated ERWC offered a significant boost in rigor, engagement, and student performance (Pilot Study Evaluation of the Early Assessment Program’s Professional Development in English, 2004-05).
The Turning Point
Then came the big breakthrough in terms of valid and reliable data: a 2015 report by WestEd evaluating the efficacy of the grade 12 ERWC 2.0 curriculum. WestEd’s study, which included more than 5,000 12th graders in 24 high schools across California, found that ERWC had a statically significant impact on student achievement. ERWC received an additional mark of distinction when WestEd’s study was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC): a repository of nationally recognized interventions verified to improve student learning. A branch of the Institute of Education Sciences, the WWC reviews high-quality research to help educational leaders make evidence-based decisions.
The positive findings from the 2015 report led to ERWC’s expansion to grade 11.
There are also two reports by WestEd focusing specifically on ERWC curriculum with designated English language development (see the 2022 report here). While all ERWC 3.0 modules include integrated English language development and address California ELD standards, many modules also include language-focused activities for designated ELD instructional time and settings. These modules are marked in the ERWC Online Community by a special “ELA-ELD” tag.
The news that ERWC’s ELA-ELD modules likewise boost student interest and achievement was further validation that ERWC “works” for California’s diverse students.
Validation for ERWC 3.0
And now there’s a new feather in ERWC’s cap: A second evaluation by WestEd (this time, on ERWC 3.0) that has been verified without reservation by the What Works Clearinghouse. After reviewing WestEd’s 2022 report, “Expanding the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum: An Evaluation of an Investing in Innovation Validation Grant,“ the WWC determined that the study met their rigorous standards and that there is strong evidence that ERWC was effective. The ERWC is also cited in a WWC Practice Guide on proven strategies for helping secondary students to write effectively.
Dr. Jyothi Bathina, Co-Director for the CSU Center for the Advancement of Reading and Writing, says of the new WWC recognition of ERWC, “This is a remarkable achievement for any educational initiative. It speaks to the dedication and persistence of the ERWC steering committee, CSU faculty, teachers, and workshop leaders, who work tirelessly to continuously improve and disseminate ERWC to California students.”
Dr. Shireen Pavri, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Educator and Leadership Programs in the CSU Chancellor’s Office, likewise commended the WWC’s recognition of ERWC, calling it a “strong testament to the deep and rich work of the ERWC steering committee, the CSU faculty, and so many middle and high school teachers who have worked collectively over the past 20 years to enhance expository reading and writing.”
We in the Department of Educator and Leadership programs in the California State University, Chancellor’s Office are thrilled about the national What Works Clearinghouse’s strong endorsement of our college preparatory Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC). This salient recognition is a strong testament to the deep and rich work of the ERWC steering committee, the CSU faculty, and so many middle and high school teachers who have worked collectively over the past 20 years to enhance expository reading and writing.Dr. Shireen Pavri, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Educator and Leadership Programs, California State University Office of the Chancellor
Building on the rigor of the 2015 study, the 2022 study used the gold standard for evaluating literacy interventions, including a student-level Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). ERWC 3.0 can now join its predecessors in being a nationally recognized literacy initiative that measurably improves teaching and learning.
The accumulation of evidence and accolades for ERWC’s efficacy is an achievement shared by the entire ERWC literacy network. Special gratitude is due to the thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in the States of California and Washington who participated in the i3 Validation Study.
What’s In a Name?
ERWC has always been more than the modules. The living community of over 15,000 certified ERWC educators who continue to transform the curriculum and its pedagogies far beyond the CSU’s early aspirations is the heartbeat of this work. For those of us who have made ERWC a labor of love, the external validation is the icing on the cake.
So the next time someone asks you if ERWC works, you can point them to ERWC’s recognition by the What Works Clearinghouse. The answer is in the name. 🙂
Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and a former high school teacher. She serves as the Chair of the ERWC Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter @JenJFletcher.
NOTE: Please consider submitting a proposal to present at this year’s ERWC Literacy Conference, to be held June 20th in Sacramento and June 26th in Pomona. Cal State University pays travel costs for selected presenters. See the Call for Presenters here. Session proposals are due March 31, 2023.
Conference registration is now open! The $75 registration fee includes continental breakfast and a buffet lunch. Discounts available for administrators, literacy coaches, and counselors.
ERWC Research, Evaluation, and Scholarship
- Jaquet, K., Fong, A., Reade, F., Chen-Gaddini, M., Skoldhorne, S., & Zhu, N. (2022). Evaluation of the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum with respect to English language development. WestEd.
- Fong, A., Porterfield, A., Skjoldhorne, S., & Hadley, L. (2022). Expanding the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum: An Evaluation of an Investing in Innovation Validation Grant. WestEd. https://www.wested.org/resources/expanding-the-erwc-evaluation/
- Boulay, B., Goodson, B., Olsen, R., McCormick, R., Darrow, C., Frye, M., Gan, K., Harvill, H., & Sarna, M. (2018). The Investing in Innovation Fund: Summary of 67 Evaluations: Final Report (NCEE 2018-4013). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20184013/pdf/20184013.pdf [See pages A-23-24, C-4, D-10, and H-3.]
- Gregory, Nicole (2018). “How Do You Create A Critical Thinker? An Innovative Reading and Writing Curriculum at the CSU Has Changed How English Teachers Prepare Students for College.” The California State University: News. https://www2.calstate.edu/csu-system/news/Pages/How-Do-You-Create-a-Critical-Thinker.aspx
- Sparks, Sarah D. (2018). “Innovation Grants Yield Some Clear Winners, Lessons to Learn: Just Nine Clear Winners Emerge from R&D Effort.” Education Week, 37(36), 6. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/06/20/innovation-grants-yield-some-clear-winners-lessons.html
- Fong, Tony; Finkelstein, Neal; Jaeger, Laura; Diaz, Rebeca; and Broek, Marie. (2015). Evaluation of the Expository Reading and Writing Course: Findings From the Investing in Innovation Development Grant: http://www.wested.org/resources/evaluation-of-expository-reading-writing-course/
- Katz, M.L., Brynelson, N., and Edlund, J.R. (2013). “Enacting Rhetorical Literacies: The Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum in Theory and Practice.” Commissioned Chapter about the ERWC for the 6th Edition of Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading, D. Alvermann, N. Unrau and R. Ruddell (Eds.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association (pp. 978-1014).
- Graff, Nelson. “Teaching Rhetorical Analysis to Promote Transfer of Learning.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53.5 (2010): 376–385.
- Hafner, Anne, Rebecca Joseph, and Jennifer McCormick. “College readiness for all: Assessing the impact of English professional Development on teaching practice and student learning.” Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching and Research 2.3 (2010): 23-45.
- Hafner, A. L., Joseph, R., & St. Germain, M. (2010). Assessing the impact of English professional development on teaching practices, student learning, and readiness for college: An evaluation of the Expository Reading and Writing Course, FIPSE. Los Angeles, CA: California State University, Los Angeles.
- Rowlands, Kathleen Dudden and Jennifer Fletcher. “Reconcilable Differences.” California English 15.3 (2010): 28-31.
- Bernasconi, Loretta. “The Jewels of ERWC Instruction.” California English 14.1 (2008): 16-18.
- Brynelson, Nancy. (Provided data) “High School to Community College New Efforts to Build Shared Expectations.” Ed Source Nov. (2008): 1-24.
- Cline, Zulmara, Kim Flachmann, and Chris Street. “Reading, writing, and ready!” Leadership 37.5 (2008): 25-27.
- Edlund, John. “Using the ERWC Assignment Template.” California English 14.1 (2008): 6.
- Fletcher, Jennifer and Marcy Merrill. “Rhetoric Rising: New Directions in Teaching High School English.” California English 14.1 (2008): 12-14.
- Program Evaluation and Research Collaborative. (2008). Evaluating the impact or reading and writing professional development on student reading and writing outcomes: Evaluation report. Los Angeles, CA: California State University, Los Angeles.
- Street, Chris, Marcy Merrill, Jennifer Fletcher, Mira-Lisa Katz and Zulmara Cline. “The Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC): Preparing All Students for College and Career.” The California Reader 42.1 (2008): 34-41.
- Brynelson, Nancy. Updates on the Early Assessment Program. CISC Newsletter: ELA Updates 1.6 (2007): 1-2.
- Cline, Zulmara and Bissell Joan. “Joint Project aims to send K-12 students to college prepared” EdCal (2007): 5.
- Cline, Zulmara, Joan Bissell, Anne Hafner, and Mira-Lisa Katz. “Closing the College Readiness Gap.” Leadership 37.2 (2007): 30-33.
- CSU Chancellor’s Office Staff. “Handbook focuses on early college assessment program” EdCal Education California 27.20 (2007): 1.
- Fletcher, Jennifer, and Marcy Merrill. “Reaping the Rewards: Two Views of the Early Assessment Program.” California English 13.1 (2007): 26-28.
- California State University, Teacher Education and Public School Programs. (2005). Pilot study evaluation of the Early Assessment Program’s professional development in English, 2004-05: Report. Long Beach, CA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.calstate.edu/teacherED/docs/EAP_ReportFinalA.pdf