Formative Assessments

South Dakota Initiates Pilot Program for Statewide Writing Assessment

The South Dakota Department of Education the spring will launch a new pilot program designed to improve statewide formative writing tests.

The pilot will gauge the effectiveness of Pearson's WriteToLearn software in delivering its statewide student writing assessments. Students in grades 5, 7, and 10 throughout the state will take this spring's Dakota Writing Assessment using the software.

The formative assessment, which tracks progress and provides feedback in an effort to foment improvement over time, uses Pearson's Knowledge Analysis Technologies (KAT) engine to measure student skills at writing essays and summarizing other material, providing feedback on six key elements of successful writing: organization, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice, ideas, and voice.

"Using WriteToLearn allows students to practice their writing with informative feedback and gives teachers the information they need to identify individual and class strengths and weaknesses," said Wade Pogany, director, assessment and technology systems, South Dakota Department of Education. "This will help students continue to build the communication skills needed for success in school and life."

South Dakota's decision to consider a new assessment came following several requests from teachers in the state to offer a test they could administer multiple times during the school year in order to determine how students writing skills were developing and in which areas they needed assistance.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.

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