Fact Sheet: Reconsidering Myths Surrounding Writing Instruction and Assessment in Kentucky (page 3)
“American education will never realize its potential as an engine of opportunity and economic growth until a writing revolution puts the power of language and communication in their proper place in the classroom.”
National Commission on Writing, Writing and School Reform: The Neglected R
Myth #1—Teacher may not write/mark on student work.
Fact—Teachers may not correct student work directly (e.g., correcting spelling, insert correct punctuation marks, reword sentences). Teachers may mark student work, however, by guiding the students with comments and suggestions for revision and/or by indicating correctness issues that students should consider during revision. Teachers and other conferencing partners may indicate the type and position of errors in the writing.
Myth #2—Student writing developed for the portfolio is “too much of the teacher’s work” with diminished student ownership.
Fact—Work that is included within the accountability portfolio shall be the student’s own. Teaching practices shall not diminish ownership of the portfolio. Teachers should not require students to revise beyond their ability level or require excessive amounts of revisions.
Myth#3—Students in Grade 4 are not developmentally ready to complete the types of writing called for in the Kentucky Writing Portfolio Assessment.
Fact—Schools that organize and maintain appropriate, vertically-aligned writing instructional programs, particularly strong primary writing programs as called for in the Program of Studies, develop student writers who are capable of completing the writing tasks asked of them.
Myth #4—It takes too much time to “do the portfolio.”
Fact—Writing instruction (for publication) should be integrated into a well-aligned curriculum so that the writing that develops from instruction may be used within the portfolios during accountability years. Writing should not be an “add-on” nor should it be limited to accountability years. What goes in the portfolio is simply the best work the student has achieved throughout the years including the accountability year. Teachers and students should not be “doing the portfolio.” The writing that develops from instruction is developed and kept over time (e.g., a fourth grade portfolio is not a fourth grade portfolio, per se. It is a P-4 portfolio demonstrating growth over those years). At the end of that process—during an accountability year—the student should present in his/her accountability portfolio his/her best work. Excessive time should not be taken if the writing program is structured appropriately. The Kentucky Department of Education has provided educators tools to reduce the amount of time spent on creating writing portfolios (e.g., The Kentucky Writing Handbook, “Saving Time with Writing Portfolios”).
Myth #5—Kentucky regulation prohibits how teachers may teach writing—it hinders creativity.
Fact—Kentucky regulation supports research-based practices that maximize student learning. Because the portfolio is the only part of the state assessment completed and evaluated at the school level, regulation must exist to govern instructional practices that lead to products that contribute to the state-required assessment and accountability program. Regulation exists to govern and inform teaching practices, not limit them. Practices in violation of state regulation do not promote student learning and, as part of an accountability system, are not allowed.
Myth #6—There is too much emphasis on writing.
Fact—There is not enough emphasis placed on authentic writing instruction in Kentucky schools evidenced by the large percentage of Kentucky students who have not yet reached proficiency. Writing is to be used to promote student learning of content and skills.
Myth #7—On-demand writing can sufficiently assess students’ writing ability.
Fact—On-demand writing is an important component of an effective assessment of student writing ability. However, on-demand writing evaluates students’ writing to a given prompt to approximate the “on-demand” nature of writing in much of the workplace environment. On-demand writing assesses students at a Depth of Knowledge level 3, a level that is certainly important to the assessment. Portfolio writing, on the other hand, asks that students write over extended periods of time with time for thinking, drafting, conferencing, revising, etc. The Kentucky writing program and Kentucky’s Program of Studies promote students writing for authentic audiences and purposes like those they will encounter in life, a research-based critical practice. This extended time for writing allows the portfolio to assess student work at a Depth of Knowledge 4. Leaving out a portfolio from the assessment would prohibit students from reaching the DOK 4, the highest level at which students think, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to make meaning of the content which they have learned.
Myth #8—Scoring of portfolios is biased and subjective.
Fact—The scoring of any assessment holds the potential for inaccuracies but Kentucky has in place training opportunities and expectations for scorers to minimize inaccuracies. Scoring of writing portfolios is an important professional development practice for teachers.
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