Writing Assessment In The Early Twenty-First Century.

“Writing assessment is thus both hero/ine the practice that brings us into a relationship with our students, and villain, an obstacle to our agency.”

“Writing Assessment In The Early Twenty-First Century” by Kathleen Blake Yancy, addresses the writing assessment practices from previous times to now. Writing assessment has been defined by a set of terms; for the last few centuries, it has been testing. We tested our student’s abilities to be able to go to college or take a composition class in college through testing, from SATS to college placement classes. Though the measure might be low in terms of validity, it offered high reliability. It came down to which assessment was fair but also the cheapest. It’s interesting to see why and how these assessments came about. Because I have taken the SATS, and my students took the PSATS just Wednesday. I thought it was ridiculous then, and I think it’s ridiculous now. The students were given two reading passages with a total of 42 questions to complete in 50 MINUTES. I CAN’T EVEN DO THAT!!!

The second wave of writing assessment (the 1970s-1980s) had developed the term we now know as holistic scoring. First holistic scoring began with sampling student writing. Second, it reliably measured student writing, providing consistent scoring. It offered the correct way for teachers to grade student writing instead of testing experts. The questions about assessment were different in the second wave than the first wave. Asking questions like who is authorized to make the best judgments and what is the overall purpose of writing assessments. I love this thought-provoking question! I work countless hours with my students to help them improve their writing; I know where they started and how far they have come — making me the expert, not someone on the outside looking at one paper and assessing them.

The third wave of writing assessment focused on program assessment vs. the student. It centers on if the program is working, how to improve it, and showing others why the application should be funded. Showcasing the good and bad of the curriculum and why things should or should not exist was the focus of the third wave. Lastly, one joint assessment prominent in all three ways of assessment was adding on formative assessment.

The current moment of assessment is looking at critical thinking, how writing assessments produce racial inequalities, looking t students from other cultures whose first language might not be English, digital composing, and lastly, self-placement.

There is also a debate on for outcomes on writing programs. Outcomes people argue are not objectives but a measure of what students know and can do. The WPA has listed four types of results: rhetorical, critical thinking, processes, and knowledge of convections. They soon added another outcome: the use of digital technologies in writing. Derek Soles and many first-year teachers respond to the idea of outcomes negatively. Stating these outcomes lack philosophies of exposition and expressionism. James Zebroski also argues that these outcomes lacked knowledge of composition and rhetoric. The University of Kentucky developed a scoring guide based on five outcomes: Ethos, Structure, Analysis, Evidence, and Convections. These are all active elements of a robust program assessment.

In 2006 the Spellings Commission was focusing on the four A’s, which is access, affordability, accountability, and assessment. The goal was for post-secondary education, providing students and parents an opportunity to see differences and similarities between institutions. The questions such assessments wanted to answer were, “What values have colleges and universities added to students?” The interesting part of this section was when the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), which requires students to respond to real-world prompts. So what is being measured isn’t really clear; it is different from the SAT score, which determines how a student will perform in college. The CLA determines what the student should earn. The concept of CLA is such a far-reach, I can’t imagine them integrating it into the USA.

Then there is the AAC&U, the value project that focuses on the faculty assessment of student work. This assessment drew on created in authentic places like classrooms and service-learning centers; and faculty expertise. To ensure faculty expertise, factually from around the world was invited to create a scoring guide that could be used to access electronic profiles. Despite faculty expertise, the composition side was concerned about what is perceived as a global effort in the writing world where the local is valued. But then again, going completely local leaves out larger context.

The article then mentions Portfolios, and I don’t know why, but I dread portfolios. As a teacher, every year, I am asked to hand in a collection of my work. Yancy mentions the benefits of portfolios to students, providing a sort of self-assessment. Students perceive this assessment as not useful, which is relatable. Currently, reflection as both theory and practice suggests it will play a vital role in writing assessment; they just don’t know how yet.

Writing Assessment in The Early 21st Century.

Writing Assessment in The Early 21st Century. This article resonated with me because I was and still am a student. In particular at this stage in my education, a student of writing. In the opening of the article Yancey describes the stages and various degrees in which writing assessment has evolved throughout the decades. By definition writing assessment is at the heart of writing and composition studies. Helping to guide students in better writing practices as well help them to develop their skills and teach them the importance of reflection and self assessment of their own writing. However there are many cons to this idea. I found it telling when she says in the opening paragraph that: “compositionists find themselves at odds with writing assessments and frustrated by it.” She goes on to quote writing assessment scholar Pat Belanoff who says that such evaluation: “is the dirty little thing we do in our closets.” I soon as I read the words: SAT, and ACCUPLACER. I cringed and felt yucky. I had flashbacks to my own SAT testing day over 20 years ago, which I still vividly remember as if it happened yesterday. The ACCUPLACER was a test I was unfamiliar with until my students this summer explained it to me. At the end of their six week summer academy at Kean they were expected to take and pass this very test. If they failed they would be stuck in this dark vortex of endless non credited courses that will rob them of their time and money. At the tender age of 18, and on the very brink of adulthood they can’t fully comprehend what ramifications this has on their young adult lives and on their educational futures. I could see the immense concern on their fragile faces and I envisioned these hefty weights on their shoulders. This type of testing puts so much pressure on students. Especially as they get older and can start to really comprehend what this testing means. Even as early as elementary and middle school age I remember feeling a tightness in my chest as the testing rolled out during the year. I would grip my number 2 pencil which such force my little hand would be throbbing. I attended Catholic school from Pre k to grade 12. I’m not exactly sure the standards for state testing in Catholic school vs. public schools, but I believe from what my students as well as friends would tell me, public school seemed to focus more on standardized testing throughout the school year and would administer more tests to students then we would get in Catholic school year. (I could be wrong.) As the article continues Yancey gives an overview of the different decades and changes in assessing writing. The 1970’s-1980’s saw a influx of holistic scoring. In the late 1980’s to the turn of the century students were introduced to portfolios. Portfolios produced a new method of classroom grading. It gave teachers and students a range of writing genres. I like this idea of students developing a portfolio of their written assignments. I believe portfolios help students read the text closer and it helps students to reflect on their assignments, analyze text more and it helps students grasp writing on a deeper level. In this very course we are keeping a final portfolio of all our works, as well as the work of our fellow classmates. I think its a great idea and at the end of the semester I’m excited to look through it and see how much I have grown as a writer. Overall I believe that writing assessment is important for the educator as well as the student. We all face evaluations and grading throughout our academic careers. However I believe when the federal government gets involved then things get tricky and icky. Is it really about the students? Or is it all about the money? Our educational system is fraught with politics and deep rooted issues that I would need an entirely new blog to write about. At the end of the day writing assessment is vital to a students development and also creates a line of communication to the teacher, I whole heartedly agree with this. However all this so called standardized testing that is done throughout the year can be very suffocating to our students, and the anxiety produced can easily sway them away from pursuing a higher education which is a sad and devastating thing to consider. I’m a prime example. I always was a poor Math student it just never was my thing. But my dream was always to teach English and to spread my love of writing and reading to students. However the Praxis pretty much crushed those dreams. I spent so much time and money, and sleepless nights agonizing over the 3 or 4 points I just missed in Math which led to my failing. I didn’t want to teach Math I just wanted to teach English!? That was my passion. Going through that experience personally makes me feel more passionately about wanting our young students to be the best and the brightest! But in my opinion the government and states should focus less on these limiting, nerve wracking tests and focus more on assessing the students as unique individuals who each possess special gifts and talents in different subjects areas. If we do this I believe it will help students of all ages to build up confidence in their abilities and prosper in their future goals. Which will in turn lead to our educational system being more about the people rather then all about the money. I added this brief You Tube video which I thought you would all enjoy! Xo

Writing Assessment

Writing Assessment in the Early Twenty-First Century

Assessment is a necessary evil in the teaching and learning of writing. In this article, Kathleen Blake Yancy describes the overall frustration teachers feel when confronted with assessment tools because they downplay the importance of real work done in the classroom. The role of assessment has varied throughout different periods, or waves, over the last century. 

The first wave was prior to the 1970’s. During this time, there was an emphasis on reliability of methods used to judge whether students were prepared for college. High stakes testing using multiple-choice questions was employed to measure writing skills. This practice is still used today, and while many people question its validity, it is known to offer consistency and high reliability. This machine-like efficiency was considered fair, as well as cost effective and timesaving. 

The second wave of writing assessment was from the 1970s to the late 80s. This time period saw a huge interest in the writing process. Holistic scoring became popular with its reliance on actual samples of student writing, as opposed to student understanding of texts written by others. Scoring guides were also used to insure reliability so that it would conform to the need for a standard of consistent scoring. In addition, the shift towards teachers rather than ”testing experts” to create prompts and score essays was gaining momentum.

The third wave was from the late 1980s to the turn of the century. This period marked a more student-centered approach to assessment, where students played a role in helping educators understand their writings and the methods they used to produce them. Portfolios consisting of a variety of texts were selected by students themselves and presented to faculty at the end of the program. This new method of assessment was driven by classroom evaluation and sought to showcase a range of writing genres. Just because a student writes well in one area does not necessarily mean that he or she writes well across all areas. The portfolio allowed teachers to measure proficiency in many genres and it gave both students and teachers a bigger role in assessment.

Yancy describes the “current moment” as fluid and dynamic. One of the minor themes she touches on is the role of critical thinking in an assessment program. Without this feature, are students performing to their full potential? Other themes are racial inequities, cultural considerations, and digital media, all valid concerns that are still subject to debate.

What I found most interesting about this reading was the conflict between local and national control of assessment. I sympathize with institutions’ desire to develop and stay true to local values, but the danger in that is being disconnected from the bigger picture. I hear the teachers in our class complaining about No Child Left Behind and the implications on the local level. I can see how government intervention in classroom dynamics is very frustrating to teachers.

The waves show a trend, however, toward assessment getting closer to the classroom and becoming a less automated and mechanical process.  From second grade through the end of college, most tests that I took were multiple choice or fill in the blank. I never felt that there was any critical thinking involved and my grades were not a true reflection of what I actually learned or absorbed. I’m glad that this is no longer the main source for evaluation. 

In recent years, colleges and universities have placed less emphasis on the SATs and the ACTs as the ultimate measure of how well students will perform after high school. Many schools are in fact using portfolios to assess college readiness. I support this trend, however, I still think that standardized tests are practical and have validity. They have survived all the debate and reforms within the realm of assessment. They are not going away anytime soon.

Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century

“Writing assessment is at the heart of composition studies: through pedagogically based assessment practices like responding to writing and introducing students to reflection and self-assessment, we assist students in developing as writers and develop our own writing/reading/teaching relationships with them.”

W.A. can be used for formative purposes−−to adjust instruction−−or summative purposes: to render a judgment about the quality of student work. … One of the major purposes of writing assessment is to provide feedback to students. We know that feedback is crucial to writing development.

I appreciate how Yancey refers to the act of assessing  as a hero/ine and a villain in a relationship with students. Although at times they seem more as a villain. She breaks down the ideology of assessment history through three waves.Related image

“The ability to write one kind of document does not automatically guarantee the ability to write another kind of document.”

Those lines definitely refers to me. The idea of portfolios helps writers create a range of  writing. The phrase, good writing is good writing is good writing no longer applies to writers especially now that this is becoming a more global concern. Yancey considers writing portfolios more localized and differentiated which varies by rhetorical situation and genre.


I found this a bit interesting. Everyone has a his/her take on how to assess writing.

Image result for Kathleen Blake Yancey writing assessments   Image result for Kathleen Blake Yancey writing assessments

Knowing many universities are getting involved with outcome based program writing assessment, whether  it be the individual student or actual program. The University of Kentucky devised an extensive process of five outcomes: Ethos, Structure, Analysis, Evidence and Conventions. This is known as an outcome based assessment.

Margaret Spellings introduced the four A’s: access, affordability, accountability and assessment.

During this previous summer’s Writing Inquiry Workshop, we were responsible for creating a portfolio. At first, I doubted my capability because it required me to step outside of my writers box and hold myself accountable. Our form of assessment was through peer reaction and advice. The idea of the portfolio in the end, became the best way for me to recognize that I can try new genres of writing through various techniques. Though I know this class requires a portfolio to submit, I still have concerns but I know it’s about assessing myself as a writer, an individual and the actual task/program. Surprisingly, I do become my known villain and end as a heroine.

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