TEA announced that it is accepting applications from Education Service Centers and their partnering school districts to participate in a writing pilot study program for the 2016-2018 school years. Legislation passed last session required TEA to conduct a study during the 2015-2016 school year to develop an alternative method of assessing writing in grades 4-7, as well as the English I and II end-of-course exams. TEA is required to pilot the alternative writing assessment method in designated school districts across the state during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. The legislation requires that the alternative assessment method must be designed to assess a student’s mastery of the essential knowledge and skills in writing through timed writing samples; improvement of a student’s writing skills from the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year; a student’s ability to follow the writing process from rough draft to final product; and a student’s ability to produce more than one type of writing.

According to TEA, the writing assessment pilot study will incorporate the development of student writing process portfolios, which includes:

  • two timed writing samples collected at the beginning and end of the school year
  • three process samples, providing evidencing of different writing styles
  • instructional portfolio, providing evidence of engagement in the writing process and integrated writing instruction throughout the school year, including, at a minimum, the five writing and process samples

Pilot districts must include at least one large urban district, one medium sized district, and one rural district. The selection of participating districts will be managed by Educational Service Centers and school districts, in association with representatives from the Texas Education Agency. Staff development pertaining to use of the writing continuum in the assessment of writing, providing effective feedback for student writers, and use of student reflection in writing instruction for the pilot districts would be offered through the Education Service Centers.

Pilot districts are scheduled to be selected in June and trained in July-August, with the pilot scheduled to begin in September 2016.

Details about pilot design

Student writing process portfolios will be developed, including two timed writing samples, which will serve the purpose of determining student growth over the course of a school year. The first sample would be collected within the first six weeks of school in order to develop a baseline knowledge of the students’ writing skills. The second sample will be collected between eight weeks and four weeks prior to the end of school.

In the months between the two timed writing samples, a digital student portfolio of writing will be developed that includes evidence of a writing process (e.g. planning, drafts, revision, editing, reflections, feedback, final product, etc.). To provide students with the opportunity to develop and deepen their own process through multiple writing styles, the portfolio will include a minimum of three process samples indicative of the following writing styles:

  • Personal Narrative
  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • Analytic

Student instructional portfolios will be comprised of timed writing samples and process samples. The instructional portfolio scores will be reflective of student growth, mastery, and the type of writing instruction occurring on each campus/district.

Local scoring of the instructional portfolios will be completed through use of a holistic rubric, assessing TEKS mastery, student growth, student ability to engage in a writing process, obtain feedback from teachers and/or peers, revise drafts, reflect on their own writing process, and produce multiple styles of writing.

Each instructional portfolio will be scored by a certified Texas educator, with a background in writing instruction, trained in the writing continuum who may or may not the student’s classroom teacher. In addition, 50 percent of the instructional portfolios will be evaluated by a local, nonteacher/s of record. TEA will randomly sample instructional portfolios for validity purposes.

Holistic scores from instructional portfolios can be compared to scores given to process samples and timed responses in order to determine the relationship between responses scored in isolation and responses scored holistically as a portfolio.