Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jessica Restaino

Committee Member

Caroline Dadas

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg


Since the 1970s, composition teachers and theorists have been advocating the term “basic writer” to give a space and voice to underprepared students entering college by providing them with basic skills remediation. Despite the various pedagogical approaches to these classes that have been established and put into practice over the years, there is still large disagreement among educators on how to best prepare these students for entrance into the mainstream college environment.

This study begins by examining the history of the basic writing movement, acknowledging key figures and the salient ideas of their works. A broad overview is given to establish a foundation for the reader, and additional reading on the subject is suggested. Though much of the existing research in the field of basic writing focuses on the collegiate level, this study examines high school students—at a suburban school— who were tracked in basic classes until they were mainstreamed during their senior year. Using anonymous participants, the overarching objective is to examine the basic writers of the school to determine any connections between class level and the students’ selfperception, motivation, and achievement. Through the use of questionnaires and interviews with students, teachers, and administrators, both qualitative and quantitative data is analyzed, and the experiences of the students and teachers are examined in connection with basic writing research.

The findings reveal why this transition from a basic track to an inclusionary model took place, and who, specifically, is benefiting from this philosophical transformation. Additionally, suggestions are made to improve the existing limitations. Though there are no hard and fast solutions presented, this study nevertheless sheds light on the struggles of high school basic writers and how, moving forward, they can escape the basic track before entering college.

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