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Wow, These State Writing Tests Certainly Do Not Measure What We Know To Be The Truth

Written by Sheila Cooperman
March 10, 2012

Having just completed the state assessment of writing, I am once again amazed at how much of the research on what makes good writers–understanding the cognitive processes involved, the social interaction and socially mediated constructs of writing, the involvement in community, and the need for looking at writing in the 21st century as interactive and multi-modal is not considered, or perhaps may I say valued when assessing students’ abilities. We teach process and thinking and assess proficieny on a first draft, timed, with no attention paid to process or authenticity. We are not practicing what we preach and what lesson is that teaching. So I often temper these tests with the concept of genre–Writing on demand is a genre– Use what you know is good writing when you approach these writing tasks. Students seem to forget, or should I say, it is easy for students to forget that their knowledge is indeed transferrable to a writing on demand task. Yes, it may be stressful and it may lack authentic purpose and audience, but as educators we have to do more than teach structured writing. We have to teach confidence and approach. We have to instill students with the ability to recognize that they have what they need (hopefully) to perform successfully in all rhetorical situations–tests are just one variety.

When the system will catch up with what we know is the future in writing and digital literacy remains to be seen, but until then educators must think two if not more steps ahead to bridge the gap between what research says is the best approach and how we are assessing.