Writing Assessment Goes Online For State’s Seventh And Tenth Graders

May 26, 2005

Charleston, W.Va. – West Virginia’s first online writing assessment was administered in March 2005 to approximately 44,000 seventh and tenth grade students throughout the state. Not only was Writing Assessment administered electronically, it was scored electronically and counties have already received results.  

To better prepare students for the 21st century and to align with national writing standards of ACT, SAT and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a redesign committee was formed in 2003 to study the feasibility of administering Writing Assessment online for grades seven and ten. During the redesign, West Virginia’s four-point rubric was expanded to a six-point rubric to increase alignment with national writing assessments. The new rubric was developed by a standards setting group in the 2003-2004 school year and released to classroom teachers for instructional use in August 2004.  

The online test was un-timed and conducted under conditions similar to West Virginia’s WESTEST. The essays were machine scored using West Virginia’s six-point rubric. Narrative, expository, persuasive and descriptive writing prompts were randomly distributed to students. Sandra Foster, coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education’s (WVDE) Office of Student Assessment Services commented that “the switch from handwritten submissions to online submissions went well, considering this was the first year and a new process.” She also noted that post-administration comments have been more supportive than pre-administration comments.  

Initial evaluative feedback noted that students enjoyed writing online as compared to handwriting their submissions and that overall students, teachers and administrators supported the continuation of online writing for seventh and 10th grade students. Online writing assessment permits a quick turnaround time and enhances the opportunity to use assessment results for instructional purposes. The subjectivity of the hand-scoring process is reduced with the online scoring, thereby providing higher reliability and validity. The online administration generated reports to counties before the end of the school year, allowing schools to modify instruction to meet student needs. State scores will be available before the opening of the 2005-2006 academic year.  

Foster stated that the Department experienced some administration challenges. Foremost was limited bandwidth, which caused some problems with connectivity. The WVDE is addressing the state’s need for expansion of technology to address instruction and online assessment.  

For more information about the West Virginia Writing Assessment, contact Sandra Foster, coordinator for the WVDE Office of Student Assessment at (304) 558 -2546.  

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