Maine’s Writing Assessment

Maine’s state assessment for English language arts (ELA) has always included writing, placing great value on the act of composing.  Beginning in 2018, writing will be assessed through two sections of the ELA test—the writing & language section and the essay.  Additionally, the essay score will be included in the school accountability formula.  Although inclusion of an essay component adds time to test administration and scoring, it increases the breadth of writing standards being measured and provides opportunity for students to compose original text—a skill that is necessary for success in post-secondary education and highly valued in the workplace.  In this discussion, we will take a closer look at what assessment of writing includes in grades 3-8 and 11. Our next blog will discuss instructional practices and provide some helpful tools and resources.

For grade 11 students taking the SAT, College Board considers the essay optional but Maine requires students complete the essay for accountability. The current iteration of the SAT essay is quite different from the essay on the previous SAT. For historical perspective, see The Evolution of Grade 11 Writing Assessment. This document presents one of the last MEA grade 11 prompts alongside one of the prompts from the previous version of SAT, and a sample of a current essay item. Learn more about the SAT essay including how it is scored by visiting this College Board essay resource. This link will also take you to sample essay prompts.

The Writing and Language portion of the SAT assesses a student’s ability to analyze the effectiveness of the author’s style. Students also select corrections and edits to improve a piece. Read this explanation of the Writing and language Test from College Board. Professional Development Modules support enhanced understanding of the SAT including key features, exploration of the components of the subs-core categories, and how to connect with Khan Academy. Note that the entire test is passage based meaning everything from vocabulary to word choice is measured in the context of reading a short passage. Access the Fall 2017 SAT workshop materials which include directions for facilitating professional learning using the materials .

Writing assessment in grades 3-8 utilizes a structure similar to that of the SAT. Students complete a writing and language test that is based on a passage and is entirely a selected response (multiple choice) test. Sample eMPower Writing and Language items can be found on the Maine DOE website. In 2018, the assessment will include an essay which is also passage based. Students will read a short pair of passages and respond to a prompt that asks for evidence from both passages. Like the SAT essay, the eMPower essay is scored with an analytic rubric  which can be found on the Maine DOE website.

The modes of writing for grades 3-8 essay writing will be consistent. Grades 3,4 and 7 students will write informational/expository essays consistent with writing standard #2. Grade 5 students will write an opinion essay while grades 6 and 8 students will write an argument, all three consistent with writing standard #1. All essays are passage-based, requiring students to use information from the texts provided in their responses. See how the essay analytic rubric aligns to ELA standards in this chart.

Contact Morgan Dunton (grades 6-12 ELA specialist) or Lee Anne Larsen (grades PK – 5 Literacy specialist) with questions or to request professional support.

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