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MacArthur students take the annual District Writing Assessment

Having switched to an automated scoring algorithm, MacArthur students scored about the same level of proficiency as they had with teachers scoring their writing.

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All MacArthur students took the District Writing Assessment on January 23 through January 25.  The test is the only in-district assessment of student writing, and all secondary students participated.

On Wednesday, students prepared for their essay by reading the text and prewriting.  For example, they read through the prompt and pulled some examples to plan for their writing.

Then on the following two days, which were block schedules, students had the entire 110 minutes to type their essay.  They were allowed to use the text and prewriting from the Wednesday session.

Previously, students submitted hand-written essays to be scored by two teachers from other school sites.  If there was a discrepancy between a passing score and a failing score, a third teacher would be brought in to decide.  This year, the essays were scored with an automated program known as MYAccess, so students found out immediately whether or not they passed.  

According to Language Arts Teacher Mr. Gregory Celestino, some of the students struggled because of the length and complexity of the texts.  For example, the eighth-grade story “The Necklace” was eight pages long.  Also, many students do not have strong typing skills, and this could result in lower scores than if the essays were handwritten.  

“I was a little bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how good he was going to do.  I got an overall score of 4.1, and I thought the essay was pretty easy because the topic was easy which was called the ‘Lottery Ticket,” said seventh-grader Matthew Morales.

Because of the change to the MYAccess program, the rubric by which students were assessed had also changed.  The rubric created by the Santa Ana Unified School District had been a five-point rubric, and a score of four or better was passing.  Now, the rubric is out of six, and students received a precise decimal point score.  “The more accurate score could give students a better understanding of exactly where their writing skills are,” said Celestino.  “Hopefully, a student with a 3.8 or 3.9 now knows that in only a few, minimal changes, they could have passed.”

“I got an overall score of a 4.3 and thought the essay was pretty easy.  Also, I was not that nervous because I was used to writing essays on a Chromebook,” said seventh-grader Sergio Torres.

While this was only the second time students had used the MYAccess program, the first was in October for a practice D.W.A., the student scores were similar to last year with about 51% of students passing.  For Celestino, that probably means the rigor was similar to human scorers.

Seventh-grader Donna Van Buskirk got an overall score of a 4.0 and said, “I thought it was pretty hard because I was not used to writing an essay on the Chromebook, but I managed to get a good score.”

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The student news site of MacArthur Fundamental Intermediate School
MacArthur students take the annual District Writing Assessment