March 12, 2020 | Blog , News

The Importance of Evaluating Student Writing

Daisy Vickers began her career in performance assessment after teaching both high school and college English. In her first job with Harcourt, she learned the ropes as a scorer and scoring supervisor. In her second scoring season, she joined Measurement Incorporated (MI) where she worked as a scoring director for a number of projects across the span of five years. From MI, she moved to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) where she became the consultant for all performance assessment. In that position, she was responsible for the development, administration, scoring and reporting across all content areas.

Recently, I have been reading through some of my own texts and emails, and frankly, I am appalled. I am appalled by my cryptic development of thoughts, my sentence structures, and my grammar and punctuation. It is just sloppy writing!  No one has called me on it, and I have just continued. Hopefully, in the future, I will do a bit more critical reading of my own work. However, the exercise did make me think about children today and the teaching and assessing of writing.  

Children have to be taught good composition skills, and they have to practice those skills in order to develop them. I remember when high stakes writing tests were given in many states, and I was fortunate enough to work with the scoring of these writing assessments in several  states, over multiple years. I was able to see student’s writing skills develop from one year to the next.             

Teachers worked to help students develop security and growth in their writing. While this effort at times led to formula writing, the teachers were often able to help them understand how to organize their thoughts and develop their ideas. We saw students progressing from being able to respond to a prompt in two sentences, to being able to respond to a prompt with developed paragraphs. It was evident that the more students write, the more comfortable they became with writing. 

The feedback that teachers give to students regarding their writing is invaluable. It can give students a sense of security about expressing themselves that will make them more successful in many areas. If they feel confident about their ideas and the way they are expressing themselves logically and grammatically, they are more likely to do just that—express themselves.  

It is still difficult for teachers to find time to read all of the essays that students need to write in order to develop and practice their writing skill, but it is such a critical skill that helps to shape how students define themselves and how others define them. Hopefully teachers will devote time in the classroom to develop it. Having the right tools is essential in order for  teachers and school districts to make evaluating writing easier and more efficient. 

As an educator, it is a wonderful thing to see when a student proudly reads aloud or shares a well crafted piece of writing.  As for me, I think I shall just pull out my old Harbrace Handbook and do a bit of reviewing.