Writing, Language Development, and Assessment

Maine’s writing assessment in grades 3-8 and 11 includes a section called “writing and language” as well as an essay component.  While there are some differences between the eMPower (3-8) assessment and the SAT (11), the writing and language sections are very similar across the grade span. The similarities include:

  • The writing and language test is entirely passage-based meaning there are no stand-alone items.
  • It is also a selected response (multiple choice) construct.
  • Students make revision choices about the content to address precision, style, purpose, organization, vocabulary, and knowledge of standard English conventions.
  • Sequenced items may be related: one asks for a correct response and the next item looks for the best evidence to support that response.

Where the 3-8 assessment differs from grade 11 is in the sub-score reporting. eMPower reports with an overall score for writing and language with revising narrative text or revising expository/informational text as a sub-score category. Both report on the use of conventions.  Sub-score data can be obtained in the MAARS portal on the confidential side with appropriate permissions.

Through the College Board assessment reporting website, SAT school day data can be viewed and sorted into several categories: words in context, expression of ideas, command of evidence, and English language conventions. SAT sub-scores include analysis in history/social studies or analysis in science which include items from reading, writing and language, and math. At the College Board site, scores can be sorted by score range or by difficulty level as well.

Because the writing assessment is entirely passage based, resources that support close reading are effective to help improve writing skills.

  • Reading Like a Writer provides a structure for reading closely to examine author’s craft. Instructions for making the task a formative assessment are included.
  • Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading While reading and writing are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning. This study identifies three core instructional practices proven to be effective in improving student reading.
  • Writing for Understanding Sequences. The Vermont Writing Collaborative has vetted a collection of content-based reading and writing tasks aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  The lesson sequences were created by educators, are available in grades K-12 and integrate with a variety of subject areas including science, social studies and math.

One area that persistently needs attention is transitions. An effective transition reflects a deep understanding of evidence and enhances connections within a text.

Other helpful resources that help to develop discrete writing skills:

  • In Common provides a range of examples of Common Core-aligned student work, drawn directly from K-12 classrooms across the country.
  • Peer Edit Protocol  A model for helping students learn how to edit a partner’s paper. Modify as necessary according to your needs. This instructional tool can also be used as formative assessment.

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