Stretch Program

Arizona State University has offered the Stretch Program since the fall of 1994.

Here's the bottom line: ASU's Stretch Program helps at-risk students--those with the lowest test scores--become the best achievers, not just in ENG 101 but even as they continue into non-Stretch classes, like ENG 102 . . . and more of them stay here at ASU.

Arizona State University's Stretch Program "stretches" ENG 101 over two semesters, to give more time to those students who may not have a lot of experience at "academic," college-level writing. We see our basic writers as those who are capable of writing full, complete, and thoughtful papers, but who also might need more time for revision, group peer review, conferences with their instructors, and so on.  These students, then, do the same readings and write the same papers as all ENG 101 students . . . only the class moves at a slightly slower pace.


    Is two classes (WAC 101 followed by a special version of ENG 101, linked-- usually--through the same teacher but always by the syllabus).
    Over the two semesters, students compose half-again as many papers as "regular" ENG 101 students write, and so receive much more writing experience than their "regular" ENG 101 counterparts.
    Is not a remedial or "pre-101" class; it's a stretched-out and expanded version of ENG 101 (just like we have an "honors" version of ENG 101 . . . and summer "versions" of ENG 101).
    Allows us, because of the extra time, to build real writing communities.
    Lets us do more than "regular" ENG 101 classes, so we're publishing our students' writing: the best papers from their third WAC 101 assignment is published in a text, OurCultures/OurStories, which is used as research for a paper in the ENG 101 part of the sequence.
    We also incorporate an "outside reader" into our syllabi: during the WAC 101 semester, all of our teachers switch a set of papers, for what we call a "minimum competency" reading. This allows another set of eyes, another perspective, to read through each student's writing and helps to create a real discussion about writing among our Stretch instructors..
    Students get three hours of elective credit for WAC 101 that counts toward graduation at ASU, so students are not held back or slowed down--instead, they have three semesters of writing (WAC 101 + ENG 101 + ENG 102), which will help in all their classes.

Has special WAC 107/ENG 107 sections for international students from non-English speaking countries.

    Went into full operation in the fall of 1994 (we have about 50 sections each fall; our classes are capped at 23).  About 19% of incoming students place into Stretch, with placement based on their SAT/ACT scores.
    5,563 WAC 101 students through fall 2001 -- 90.14% of them pass.
    Overall, about 23% of ASU’s first-year student population comes from underrepresented groups (Asian American, African America, Hispanic, Native American). About 36 percent of Stretch students come from these groups.

In effect, the Stretch Program works with those students who record the lowest standardized test scores, and nearly two in five come from groups traditionally under-represented at the university . . . in other words, our students are from groups who often are labeled "remedial" and "not up to college-level work". . . yet Stretch helps them succeed better than "regular" ENG 101 students: 

Current pass rate information:

Average pass rate, all ENG 101 students, academic years 1994-95 through 2002 (excludes summer sessions)............................................................. 88.33 %

Average pass rate, for ENG 101 Stretch students, academic years 1994-95 through 2002 (excludes summer sessions).............................................. 92.58 %

Stretch students pass ENG 101 at a four percent better rate than do "regular" ENG 101 students.

While we might expect (since they have the same teacher for two semesters) Stretch students to pass ENG 101 at a higher rate than "regular" ENG 101 students, they also pass ENG 102 at a higher rate:

Average pass rate, all ENG 102 students, academic years 1993-94 through 2002 (excludes summer sessions) ....................................................................................... 85.39 %

Average pass rate, for ENG 102 Stretch students, academic years 1994-95 through 2002 (excludes summer sessions) .......................................................................... 88.32 %

Stretch students pass ENG 102 at a higher rate than "regular" students do. That is, even when they're in "non-Stretch" classes, like ENG 102, Stretch students do better than "regular" ENG 101 students.

In effect, this program helps those students seen as the most at-risk become the best achievers.

For more information, see "The `Stretch Program:' Arizona State University's New Model of University-level Basic Writing Instruction" inWPA: Writing Program Administration 20 (1996):79-91. You might also want to look at information from the Conference on Basic Writing website

Sample memo to upper administration:

To help demonstrate what we're doing with Stretch, this is a copy of a memo I sent around (in September of 1997) to everyone in upper administration who I could think of, detailing the "hard data" for the first three years of Stretch. 

In response, I (along with our Chair) received congratulatory notes from our President, Provost, Dean, and several others. After I published these data on the Writing Program Administration (WPA) Listserve, I received many inquires from schools about the program, and have served as consultant to several. A number of schools have since instituted their own Stretch programs. 

Please note that the data on the memo was submitted in the fall of 1997, while the data above includes spring 1998, so the figures don't always match. 

ASU's Stretch Program was designed by former Directors of Composition John Ramage and Dave Schwalm, and went into full operation in the fall of 1994. We essentially "stretch" ENG 101 over two semesters--students take WAC 101 their first semester and then take ENG 101, usually with the same instructor and same group of students. This allows those students who need a little more time to move at a slightly slower pace . . . and to receive more writing experience: "regular" ENG 101 students do four papers plus a portfolio; Stretchstudents do six papers plus two portfolios-and each paper has intense teacher involvement and feedback and goes through multiple drafts. 

Stretch Program results so far (summarized below) are especially gratifying since we work with those students who are seen as the least prepared for college-level work: students who place into Stretch have the lowest ACT or SAT scores and are often called "at-risk" students. And while (as President Coor recently noted) about 23 percent of our current freshman class comes from under-represented groups (African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Native American), 39 percent of Stretch students come from these groups--who also are often "at-risk" in the university. 


Each semester, Stretch students complete an anonymous survey: 89 percent of our students tell us they think their "writing has improved" because of the program. Students note that especially they feel more confident about their writing (and there's a significant body of research that indicates that having confidence in writing ability is critical to writing well, no matter what the writing task). 

As we might expect, most of these students say the program "works" because of the extra time they receive to work on their writing: fully 40 percent of those students completing the survey find the extra time to be the "best thing" about the program (second-best, according to our students, is having the same teacher and the same classmates over two semesters). 


Stretch students pass ENG 101 at a higher rate than "regular" ENG 101 students: 

Average pass rate, all ENG 101 students, 1994 -1998........................... 87 percent

Average pass rate, for ENG 101 Stretch students, 1994 - 98................. 92 percent

Perhaps more striking is that Stretch students also pass ENG 102 at a higher rate than "regular" ENG 101 students: 

Average pass rate, all ENG 102 students, 1991-1996..................…... 80 percent

Average pass rate, for ENG 102 Stretch students...........................… 86 percent


Compared to what we used to do before Stretch started (ENG 071 followed by ENG 101): 

For every 1,000 students who took ENG 071, only 280 would be here three semesters later to subsequently register for ENG 102 . . . but of every 1,000 students who take WAC 101, 460 register here for ENG 102. That is, with Stretch, 61 percent more of the students who start with WAC 101 are still here at ASU to register for ENG 102 than those who took our former ENG 071 class. 

In dollar terms: we've had 2,215 students take WAC 101 so far; if 46 percent (as above) register for ENG 102, that translates into 1,019 students. If we had not replaced ENG 071 with the Stretch model, only 620 of those 2,215 students would have taken ENG 102 here. That is, Stretch helped retain 399 students more than under the former model. You can translate better than I the dollar effect on the university of retaining 400 more students. 

In effect, ASU's Stretch Program helps the most at-risk students become the best achievers, not just in ENG 101 but even as they continue into non-Stretch classes, like ENG 102

. . . and more of them stay here at ASU.