This weekend I received an email from a friend, neighbor, and person whose room I am volunteering and doing research. She had all her data from the first of the year's writing prompt. She had used the new, more rigorous common core aligned continuum that her district had developed to evaluate the writing. She saw that her students needed more work. Where should she go? How should she approach it? These were some of the questions she was deliberating.
Since she is a friend and a neighbor, I hopped on my bike and rode over to her house on Sunday afternoon. Yes, Sunday. AND it was her birthday! But, hey, she's a teacher and a professional, and she didn't want to waste any time. She wanted to be ready for Monday morning and have a plan of action!
We looked at her students' writing. We compared it to what they did on ISTEP. We looked at the various categories which were divided by traits. We talked about the individual students which she knew so well because she looped with them from fourth grade to fifth grade. She now has a plan. After several days of looking at what makes good writing, looking at their prompts and scores, looking at the ISTEP scores and prompts, they will set their own goals. Yes, she will sit beside them as they do this, but she is confident that they will be smart about what needs to be done.
Her next concern was how not to kill the wonderful spirit for writing that these fifth graders have. She didn't want them to shut down. My advise was to talk to the students about the scores overall. This isn't a pass/fail issue. It isn't for a grade. It is a measure. For example, if you go to the doctor and have a high temperature, you didn't fail his test since it is above normal. It just gave the doctor the information to know something is wrong and it needs to be worked on. That is the same with these scores. It is simply a measure of where there is a weakness. Now what are we going to do about it?
Have you taken time to look at your students' scores from last year...their prompt scores, their ISTEP scores? Have you had the students look at them and evaluate where they are as writers? Have THEY set goals for what needs to make them better writers? If not, this might be something you want to do together so you can set goals for their future writing.