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Slightly More Frosh Pass FEE This Year

By Jennifer Chung
Associate News Editor

Just 21 percent of this year's freshman class passed the Freshman Essay Evaluation - up 4 percent from last year.

The overall passing rates were compiled from two tests offered to freshmen, an online essay evaluation offered over the summer and a written and timed three hour test offered during Orientation.

Over half of incoming freshmen took the test online, which gave students 48 hours to answer two essay questions. The remaining students took the written form last Friday.

The distribution of FEE results remained similar to those of last year.

The "almost similar distribution" was "a good validator"for the new web format, according to Leslie C. Perelman, associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs.

"I am personally very happy"with the web format, Perelman said. "It's a good sign that [this year's results] replicated the distribution." Perelman cited the programmer of the web exam as doing "a tremendous job of handling a lot of technical glitches,"and allowing the exam to be administered well.

Although the Committee on the Writing Requirement will need to evaluate the web format and then make recommendations, preliminary feedback "has all been very encouraging,"Perelman said.

Online test passes more students

Twenty-nine percent of the students who took the web version of the FEE passed, as compared to about 12 percent of the students who took the standard paper-based version of the exam.

Despite high failure rates, students who did not pass Phase I, either through the FEEor through advanced placement testing now have several options for satisfying this initial phase of the writing requirement.

"Students who received a Not Acceptable' really should take [a writing class] the first year," Perelman said. "It hurts them"by not taking a class, he added. "They put it off, rather than addressing the skill."

In addition to writing classes available for students who need to pass Phase I, a number of humanities, arts, and social science classes have now been designated communications-intensive and able to act as substitute for a writing class.

Freshmen will need to achieve a grade of B or better in one of these classes to pass Phase I through this method.

Students who choose not to take a class and haven't passed out of Phase I can submit a paper from one of their HASSclasses to the Writing Requirement office by a mid-November of their sophomore year.

Cheating not a concern

Although Perelman admitted that cheating was an initial concern on the web-based evaluation, students were required to type out a statement agreeing that they did not have any help on the exam. Also, "because the exam was forty-eight hours long and based on a long reading, [a freshman] could have been helped, but it would have been a lot of effort and trouble,"Perelman said.

The similar overall distribution of results "shows that at least there was not wide-scaled cheating," Perelman said. Also, the "advantages" of taking the web version of the exam - specifically, that students received more feedback and commentary about their writing - outweighed any risks, Perelman said.

Students received "a considerable amount of comments," Perelman said. "We didn't just give them a score. We gave them feedback."