"Creating clear criteria for high-quality writing, collaborating with other teachers to score student writing, and checking for interscorer reliability can improve assessment practices." (Stephen Graham, Informing Writing, Education Update Feb.2012)
Teachers at MCCPS consistently analyze, assess, and take action to improve student performance.
This past year, the humanities department established a collective goal to determine what constitutes proficiency in writing at each grade level, and thereby vertically align expectations for student writing.
The first step in the process was to create a writing prompt that could be addressed by students across all grade levels; the topic connected current events and the essential skills and habits at MCCPS, namely, the qualities/characteristics that a president should demonstrate. In conjunction with creating the prompt, teachers also developed a rubric to evaluate this writing. Teachers then distributed the prompt to students, and after the work was collected, student names were removed, and copies were made.
The next step in the process was the grading of five random papers while using the rubric. Then, teachers compared scores and tried to come to consensus about the scoring. This component is known as calibration. After many discussions to establish consistency and reliability with grading, teachers began working individually to read and score fifteen to twenty papers while trying to maintain the consistency that was established. Scoring multiple papers, discussing the scores and the rationale for the, scores creates validity in the process.
So far, the department has succeeded in scoring all fourth and fifth grade work, and there now exists an exemplar or anchor paper for student writing in these two grades. This project will continue in August, and an exemplar of student work will be identified for each of the other grades.
One might well wonder why humanities teachers who already have an abundance of student work to read would enthusiastically sign up for additional reading of student writing. Firstly, it helps students understand what is proficient and to establish clear expectations about the quality of writing they should be producing. Secondly. it aligns the expectations for student writing throughout the school and it eliminates re-teaching, or having new teachers try to figure what is the expected level of student writing. Thirdly, it removes a considerable degree of subjectivity from grading student work when there is an established, agreed-upon set of expectations for student writing. Furthermore, it identifies anchor papers or exemplars of student work and this benefits both teachers and students, particularly the latter, because students can then see a model of quality writing.
The initiative undertaken by the humanities department is informed by the work and research being carried out by the Center for Collaborative Education.
At MCCPS, teachers continue to be both innovative and reflective in their practice in order to assess the needs of students, and so that we can continue to support and improve student achievement.
Humanities Dept >