Assessment | News

South Dakota Adopts Web-Based Writing Assessment Statewide

After a successful pilot program in the spring, the South Dakota Department of Education (SDDOE) has adopted Pearson's WriteToLearn software formally as its statewide student writing assessment. Students throughout South Dakota in grades 5, 7, and 10 will take the State Writing Assessment three times per year using the software.

"In South Dakota, we believe that assessment should be directly connected to improved student achievement," said Wade Pogany, assessment director for the South Dakota Department of Education. "When student writing was only evaluated once at the end of the school year, teachers didn't have the opportunity to use the results to work with their students on areas needing improvement."

He continued, "Now, by using WriteToLearn to evaluate student writing three times each school year, teachers can monitor progress, intervene where necessary and ensure that all learners are on track to meet learning goals. Our new approach will truly help teachers teach writing."

The SDDOE is also providing the state's teachers access to WriteToLearn throughout the school year to use as a teaching tool for building literacy skills. Components such as the essay writing feature and summarization aid offer instant feedback to users and help them improve their writing more rapidly than if they had to wait for a teacher to grade each essay manually and explain comments and corrections.

"With the instant feedback, [my students] can see exactly what they need to work on," said Ladonna Mielke, a seventh-grade teacher at Faith School District 46-2 in Faith, SD. "When I sit down with individual students to talk about their papers, the writing is already taking shape. We can talk in-depth about it, about how to take it to a higher level. Their writing has been amazing."

The WriteToLearn 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.

A detailed overview of the features of WriteToLearn and how the software works to analyze students' writing and provide valuable feedback is available in a downloadable brochure (.pdf format).

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.