The All-School Writing Assessment

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The All-School Writing Assessment

Shane Mamerow, Staff Writer

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by Shane Mamerow

Every year, all students, no matter what grade level, will take what is called the “All-School Writing Assessment.” This happens during the fall semester and again in the late spring. The essay is a document-based question, meaning the students are presented with a selection of graphs, excerpts, and articles to read and use to answer the prompt. Our most recent prompt was: Should the United States have compulsory voting?

The purpose of these assessments is to allow all your humanities teachers to see how your analysis skills are, and to see if they improve throughout the year. The resulting data is used both at the school level and for district reporting, for something called the 90-Day Plan.

Many students always seem to feel pressured when having to write these assessments, and they may find it to be torture. However, this is an exaggeration to what the assessment is. No student should be pressured when it comes to writing these assignments. Mr. Garcia, one of the Humanities teachers who overlooks the assessment, was asked a series of questions about the assessment. The most important question is what exactly are the teachers looking for in these assessments? “We are looking for students use of evidence,” he stated. “How do students analyze the evidence presented? This is what we are looking for.” So when it comes to writing, all you need to do is follow the directions given, and you will have satisfied what the teachers are looking for. Good news for those who don’t like writing too much, because the length of the essays is very flexible. “Longer is not always better.” Mr. Garcia said. “I have reviewed essays which are about 2-3 paragraphs, but they are so intricate, and do exactly what the prompt is saying, that we immediately feel the essay is indeed one of the better ones we will read.” Mr. Garcia was also asked if there was a set limit; “I would say the sweet spot is about 3-4 paragraphs long.”

One thing that can stress students out is the topics they are presented with. However, the feeling or biases you may feel during some assessments is all expected. “We like to choose topics that are interesting to (the) age range, something in which students may have prior knowledge in, and that are very controversial,” Mr. Garcia stated. “However, we also like to choose documents that are balanced – we don’t like to be extremely one sided when making these assessments.”

The last thing some students may be concerned with is the grading. What if my teachers grade tougher than the other grade levels? Actually, the humanities teachers take a day away from nex+Gen to score all the essays together.

Students only put their ID numbers on the essays, so all the scoring is done blind–the teachers only look up the names after the essay is scored. “We like to stay consistent with our grading, so if a questionable essay arises, then we will grade it together, or ask one another about the essay in question.” The teachers spend quite a bit of time with the rubric (which is based on the NM Public Education Department essay rubric) calibrating to make sure everyone is consistent in their scoring.

Overall, you should not stress out about the All-School Writing Assessment. It is just checking to see your skills when it comes to analysis.