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Writing test offers feedback throughout school year

More than 18,000 South Dakota students will participate in a pilot test of a new state writing assessment this spring. Students in grades 5, 7 and 10 will take the 2010 Dakota Writing Assessment using Pearson’s WriteToLearn™, a Web-based writing and reading comprehension.

The state made the decision to move from a summative to formative writing assessment in response to requests from teachers for a test they can use periodically throughout the year to measure student progress and give immediate feedback to students on their writing skills.

"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.

With the program, students practice essay writing and summarization skills. Their efforts are measured by the Knowledge Analysis TechnologiesT (KAT) engine, which automatically evaluates the text for six writing characteristics: ideas, organization, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice and voice. Students and teachers then focus on each of these key dimensions of writing."This will help students continue to build the communication skills needed for success in school and life," added Pogany.