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Study: Formative Assessment Improves Writing Skills

From guest blogger Nora Fleming

Student writing skills can be improved in the classroom by having teachers provide students regular feedback, track their progress, and encourage them to evaluate their own skills, finds a new report from the Carnegie Corporation of New Yorkreleased today.

"Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment" examines whether formative assessment can improve students' writing skills and what techniques are best to help them improve. The research was published by the Alliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy group based in Washington that supports college readiness for high school students.

The report draws on earlier findings from "Writing Next" and "Writing to Read", previous reports from Carnegie and the alliance that also assess how to improve students' reading and writing skills. Even with the growing research, the report encourages more, given the lagging high school writing skills that leave many students unprepared for college or the workplace. These writing assessments should be closely aligned to the Common Core Standards Initiative, researchers say.

"Formative writing assessment makes a difference in how well students convey thoughts and ideas through text," the researchers write. "However, the trustworthiness of formative writing assessments can be compromised if careful attention is not directed at what is assessed, how it is assessed, and how it is scored."

While the report says that regular in-class assessment can help students improve, it also stresses that the best practices must be employed in student assessment, particularly having teachers anonymously grade student papers, randomly order papers, collect multiple samples of work, and score papers as fairly as possible, among other strategies.

"Helping young people learn to write clearly, coherently, and logically will expand their access to higher education, give them the skills needed to be successful at work, and increase the likelihood that they will actively participate as citizens of a literate society," the report concludes.

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