Thursday, January 21, 2010

BEST Ways to Prepare Students for the Direct Writing Assessment (DWA)

Good Evening,

Tomorrow I am meeting with 8th grade teachers to review ideas that will help prepare students for the Direct Writing Assessment (DWA). This is an interesting situation in that Utah is doing what no other state in the union has done - ever!

"And what's THAT?" exclaims Joe the Plumber,  a relative of John Q. Public, who recently lost his job due to the downturn of the housing industry. Because he's been busy filling out unemployment forms, he hasn't heard about the big change in this year's writing assessment. In fact, Joe just learned last Tuesday Jordan School District no longer includes schools on the east side of the Salt Lake Valley; so it's little wonder that he doesn't know that his 8th grade daughter's writing will be tested this year.

So what's the big deal with this DWA? No, it's not part of President Obama's stimulus package, nor is it a program resurrected from the era of the Great Depression - like the CCC or the TVA. Spawned during the NCLB climate of accountability, Merit Software provides a little background about our summative assessment of writing - 
The Direct Writing Assessment (DWA) is a criterion-referenced test designed to assess the writing skills of Utah students in grades six and nine five and eight. This writing test is an element of the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS). It was first administered statewide in the spring of 2002.
The DWA is scored using an analytic rather than a holistic scoring method. The scoring rubric, which is aligned with the Utah Core Curriculum for language arts, focuses on six components of writing: ideas & content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.
THAT was THEN; this is NOW -
  • Not quite a year ago, the state legislature created a LAW that stated ...
    • 8th grade, not 9th grade, students will write their persuasive essays online INSTEAD of by hand.
      • Switch to 8th grade was because law makers wanted to see a writing assessment in each level - elementary (5th), middle (8th), high school (10th)
      • Reason for switch: Many districts throughout Utah send 9th graders to high school, but 8th grade is in ALL middle schools.
    • 8th graders will write to a PERSUASIVE prompt even though the Core objectives and indicators focus upon NARRATIVE writing
    • Students' essays will be assessed by ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE as programmed by Measurement, Inc.  
      • THIS IS  .... interesting?  
    • EVERYTHING had to be in place by spring of 2010!!!! 
      • Request for proposals (RFP) to find a company to administer assessment
      • Review of RFPs and award to "winning" company 
      • Development by company of ALL criteria 
        • Formative assessment tool (Utah Writes)
        • Summative requirements - a TON of those!!!
      So, my friends, this is how we got to where we are. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. When the excitement is over and the dust has settled, I'll be happy to reprint any crazy stories you have to share.

      GOOD LUCK!!!! 


      banders said...

      I've been charged with a similar task at my school- prepping teachers for the DWA. I've been told twice now by my district literacy specialist that the test must be completed in one sitting. Have you heard the same?

      Thanks for the explanation. I'd like to link back to it:

      link2literacy said...

      Yes, the DWA is untimed, but students do have to complete the test in one setting. This is tricky for a couple of reasons - lack of computer labs so students cannot take the test all at the same time; and this means test security is compromised.