1. Effective Fall semester 2001, non-native speakers of English (NNS) will be certified as meeting Regents' testing requirements either by taking the regular Regents' test (RT) or by passing the reading/writing section of the revised Georgia State Test of English Proficiency (GSTEP).
2. NNS students who do not pass the RT or the GSTEP and who have attempted 45 or more semester hours will have the option of taking regular RTP courses, RTP courses for international students offered by the Department of AL/ESL, or appropriate courses in the Intensive English Program.
With the exception of 1) and 2) above, NNS students are subject to all other RT policies.
There is a general concern that the current GSU procedures for Regents testing do not adequately assess the academic reading and writing competence of NNSs. Recent research (Nelson & Byrd, 1995, 1998) has shown that a large number of NNS students who had difficulty passing the Regents test were doing well in their academic courses, even when those courses were reading and writing intensive. According to Regents guidelines, "each institution may develop special procedures for certifying the competence of students whose native language is not English." According to Kathleen Burke in the Regents Testing Office, procedures for testing NNSs vary widely across institutions. For example, at the University of Georgia, the test for NNSs does not include a reading component at all, but consists of a two-hour writing test.
The GSTEP, currently being revised, will include integrated reading and writing tasks. Students will read three to four passages taking different points of view on an academic topic, complete a synthesis task based on the passages, and write an essay on the topic integrating information from the passages with their own experience and background knowledge. The essays are graded by two trained raters, with a third rater adjudicating if the two raters disagree on the score. This testing format is more representative of the kinds of reading and writing that students need to do for their academic classes, and we believe it will be a more valid way to test both reading and writing than the current form of the Regents test or the GSTEP. The revised GSTEP will be operational as of Fall 2001.
In the 1999-2000 academic year, approximately 185 students took the Alternate Reading Exam each semester, and 130-145 students took the writing. Since about 73% of students pass the Alternate Reading Exam on their first attempt (Nelson & Byrd, 1998), this proposal would not affect more than 50 students per semester.
In addition to better meeting the needs of NNSs at GSU, an advantage of this proposal is that the pass rates reported to the Board of Regents would improve.