The District Writing Assessment gauges students’ argumentative writing

All MacArthur students took an in-class essay test on January 25 and 26 in their language arts classes.

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On January 25 and 26 all students took the District Writing Assessment, or D.W.A.  The D.W.A. measures students’ writing skill and was administered through language arts classes during a block schedule.

Depending on the students’ schedule, they took it on the Thursday or Friday, with periods 1, 3, and 5 having the test on Thursday, and period 2, 4, and 6 writing on Friday.  Classes were on a block schedule, which meant each period was extended from 52 to 108 minutes.  Also, eighth graders also took the Spanish Placement Test through their social studies class.

“I hope all scores will improve this year,” said Language Arts Teacher Mr. Gregory Celestino.

In an attempt to eliminate scoring bias, the essays will be graded by Santa Ana Unified School District teachers from different school sites.  The D.W.A. uses a five-point rubric to rate each essay.  A score of four or five indicates that students have met or exceeded the grade-level expectation.  Students scoring three or below have not produced grade-level work.  The rubric also has a five criteria: focus/claim, organization/structure, evidence/support, analysis, and language skills.

Two teachers must agree on the score, but if there’s a discrepancy between a pass and a fail, e.g. a score of a three and a four, then a third scorer is brought in to break the tie.  The tests will be scored about two weeks afters students complete them, on February 14 and 20 for seventh and eighth graders, and February 22 and 28 for sixth graders.  The essays will be returned to students after they are scored.

“The D.W.A. is meant to measure how well your writing has grown over the years,” said Celestino.  Students take the D.W.A. because it is the only standardized measure of writing that students will receive feedback on for the school year.  The test is a district level test made by S.A.U.S.D. teachers on the Writing and Curriculum Committee.

“The common mistakes sixth graders make is citing evidence, and the seventh and eighth graders often forget the counterclaim,” said Celestino.

The seventh and eighth graders have the same prompt, while the sixth graders have a different one.  All grades wrote an argumentative essay.

The sixth-grader’s prompt was about whether or not there should be pets in the classroom. The seventh graders and eighth graders had a prompt about whether it is disrespectful for N.F.L.  players to kneel during the national anthem.

All MacArthur students took a practice test on December 7 and 8 to prepare for the actual test. This practice test was also taken in language arts class during block schedule.

“The practice test helped me get a good idea of what the real test is like.  I got a four on the practice test and I’m hoping I improve for this one,” said eighth-grader Madelyn Rodriguez.            

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