With the pressure of Common Core and End of Course exams, testing in the classroom can be intimidating. However, if teachers use district testing as a summative assessment of what students know, it can be a useful tool.
My district administers a district writing assessment twice per year, once in the fall and again in the spring. They communicate the testing window dates early enough that I can plan for the district assessment to also be my unit assessment. This time, I used the district assessment as our summative assessment for the editorial unit. It is a great test of what exactly students can do.
This video explains how I prepared students for this assessment.
ISD Writing Assessment, Independence School District, Independence, MO. 2014.
This powerpoint, 9-10 ISD HS ELA Writing Assessment B Post-Test Spring, should be projected and shared with students. If gives the students, and teacher, step-by-step directions for administering the assessment. The planning, prewriting, and reading takes students about 40 minutes to complete.
First, I show students the prompt and give them time to read it. I don't read it aloud because I want this to be a cold assessment.
Imagine that your school district leaders are creating a policy on the use of internet filters in school libraries. They are currently debating whether or not internet filters should be used in schools and, if so, to what extent.
You now have the chance to write a letter to your school district leaders arguing for or against the use of internet filters in school libraries. Your letter should state a claim by taking a clear side (W.9-10.1a), back it up with evidence (W.9-10.1b), and refute the other side (W.9-10.1b). Your job is to argue whether or not internet filters should be used in school libraries and, if so, to what extent.
Letters are really just a form of essay, so use what you know about argument essay writing to structure your letter (W.9-10.4). Be sure to back up your claim with reasons and evidence, supported by facts and details, and analysis of sources from your reading and viewing (W.9-10.8).
Next, I project the Powerpoint and progress through. Students spend ten minutes watching this film and taking notes. I show the short clip twice so students have a chance to listen the first time and take notes the second time.
Next, I distribute the two articles, ISD Grades 9 10 Writing Assessment Texts 1 and 2. Students have 15 minutes to read and annotate the articles. I remind students to read the prompt again. I ask them to do this because I think it is good testing taking practice. I want students to read and annotate with a very specific purpose from the prompt.
Finally, I say to the students:
On your personal notes page, use what you know from the video, articles, and your own life to answer these short response questions:
1. Why are internet filters commonly used in public schools?
2. Why might some people agree with the use of internet filters in public schools?
3. Why might some people disagree with the use of internet filters in public schools?
4. Do you believe schools should use internet filters? If so, to what extent?
5. Which points in the video and articles mostly support your own beliefs about using internet filters in school?
Before students write the essay, I distribute the HS Argumentative Writing Scoring Guide and tell students to look over it for a few minutes. I always try to give the scoring guide before a student takes an assessment. I don't ever want the assessment to feel like a "gotcha" moment. Students should know exactly what is expected and how they are going to be assessed.
I project the prompt again and give students 50 minutes to write. While students are writing, I watch. I've discovered that watching students write and take an assessment is awesome. I can identify students' weaknesses and strengths often by simply watching. I don't offer writing help, but I do walk around and offer words of encouragement.
When students are finished, I collect their essays, their annotated articles, question answers and note page. Not all teachers collect this information. However, I want to read the students thinking. This is especially helpful for students who don't perform well on the assessment. I can confer with those students and use their notes to begin the conversation about their assessment.
My district is generous enough to offer a pull-out day to collaboratively grade this essays. We gather as an English Department and grade. Periodically throughout the day, we trade essays to make sure our grading matches, or comes close to.