Important Information from Joe Bisz

Please contact Joe at with any comments or questions.


We have been losing our remedial writing sections for a few years now, but it is only recently that so many of us have been forced to feel the tremendous burden caused by the ongoing slashing of these classes. I am sorry about that. Yet many more of us will feel it in semesters to come.

There were plenty of signs that CUNY was moving in this direction. However, between the problems of Pathways and the countless other obstacles thrown at our department, it was difficult to find time to examine the problem and strategize means to counter it.

Our lack of readiness **must** change. As Cheryl wrote, it is time for us to be “more proactive, less reactive.”

We should (and will) discuss this monstrous situation at our department meeting. But a discussion isn’t enough. We need to form a new department committee: one that is tasked with the mission to investigate this trouble and develop solutions. No doubt some  information that this committee pursues would need to be gathered from other committees or heads. But this problem is of such a scope that a separate committee– one that could focus all of its attention and organize other efforts–would be best. Also, it is likely that this committee could be charged to attending to other problems as well (such as the recent drop in enrollment and in electives, the difficult to manage size of department, and the subsequent never-ending workload placed on our department deputies). Still, in my opinion, the loss of our remedials is the biggest, most far-reaching threat our department has ever faced–at least since I’ve been hired.

As a first step towards such an analysis, I recently finished some research on what, exactly, **has** been our remedial loss. I will post it in my next email.


Dear Colleagues,

Below is data detailing the number of 088 and 095 sections that we used to have, and how many we have lost each semester for the past 6 years. Additionally, because I was curious to see how many sections we may have “lost” to CUNY Start, I found a way to look up CUNY Start enrollment data.
Conclusions regarding our remedials:
Comparing Fall 2013 to the Fall semester where we first appeared to be losing sections, which was Fall 2008, we lost **44 percent** of our original 095s (or 18 sections lost).

The Spring was an even greater loss. Comparing Spring 2014 to the Spring semester where we first appeared to be losing sections, which was Spring 2009, we lost **65 percent** of our original 095s (or 57 sections lost total). Also, looking at just our Spring semesters from the past year alone (2014 to 2013), we lost **40 percent** of our already low amount of 095s in a single year (or 21 sections lost).

Comparing Fall 2013 to the semester where we first appeared to be losing sections, which was Fall 2008, we lost **73 percent of our 088s** (or 18 sections lost). Our Spring loss is similar.

When looking at the chart below, keep in mind that our enrollment normally increases greatly each year, so not only should there not have been losses, but there should have been significant increases.
I found a way to look up CUNY Start enrollment for Spring 2014 in “CUNY Start Writing.” This is the class we should be concerned about since, according to its course description: “Successful completion of this course indicates a passing score on the CATW exam. It is also equivalent successfully completing ENG 88 and/or ENG 95 and qualifies students for ENG101 placement.” (!) I know, I know—the nerve!
For Spring 2014, I found “257 students” enrolled in CUNY Start Writing. This is equal to about 10 sections of 095.
This IS a significant amount of sections—in fact, it is one-third of our remaining 32 sections this Spring!—however, since we had 53 sections in Spring 2013, I don’t see how the CUNY Start program can be held wholly responsible for our loss of remedials. (Of course there may be other factors here that I’m not thinking of). Rather, I would conjecture that the rest of the drop is coming from the other two factors: a) students are having a markedly easier time passing the CATW tests (which many of us have noticed), not because the passing score has dropped, but ostensibly because the standards have dropped, and b) a general decline in enrollment.

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