Reading, writing and results for one middle school

At the start of the 2008-2009 school year, Troutman Middle School Principal Jeff James was dissatisfied with his students’ writing scores. He believed that what the school needed was a new approach – one that would both actively involve students in their own learning and also build literacy skills across the curriculum. After all, if a student cannot read with comprehension nor write with clarity, how can she learn social studies, science - or any subject? Troutman,

in the heart of North Carolina's Piedmont region, decided to begin a pilot program of Pearson’s literacy program, WriteToLearn™.

After over a year of using WriteToLearn as an integral part of literacy instruction, students are seeing results. In fact, Principal James and a team of teachers from the school recently traveled to Raleigh to share their success with State Superintendent of Education June Atkinson and members of the North Carolina State Board of Education's Globally Competitive Students Committee.

“We began a pilot of WriteToLearn and saw tremendous growth in the test scores of the students who were learning using this innovative tool, versus the students who were being taught writing in the traditional methods we have used in the past,” said James. “Our special-education students, in particular, saw real growth when learning with WriteToLearn."

Debbie Craven-Smith, a special education teacher at Troutman, and her colleague Perry Justice, who co-teaches an inclusion class with her, traveled with James to the state capitol. "We have seen dramatic changes in the amount of time that students devote to their schoolwork when they are using WriteToLearn," said Craven. "They ask if they can do additional work on their own, on their home computer. It is thrilling to see students take responsibility for work on projects and strive independently to complete a higher quality product."

With the program, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by the Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ engine, an automated assessment tool that evaluates the meaning of text, instead of just checking for correct spelling or grammar. The software provides feedback on six traits of writing - ideas, organization, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice and voice - and allows students and teachers to focus on each of these dimensions as needed.

Based on the success of WriteToLearn at Troutman, its school district, Iredell-Statesville Schools, recently decided to implement the program in all seven of its middle schools and to launch a pilot of the tool at Statesville High School.