Creswell School District

Writing Success Team

 

 

Team Members:

Laura Bruni, Creslane                         Stephanie Curtis, Creslane
            Jennifer Langan, Creslane                   Sherry McKee, Creslane            

Jacque Robertson, Creslane                Ahlum Scarola, Creslane
            Pat Bettencourt, CMS                        Anna Davis, CMS
            Leslie Harstad-Bell, CMS                   Kathi Holst, CMS

            Kim Kuhnhausen, CMS                      Ginny Hoke, CHS                

            Dr. Rick Stuber, Curriculum Dir.       Robert Young, Lane ESD

 

As part of the Continuous Improvement Plan, the Creswell School District Writing Success Team was formed in the fall of 2005.  The objectives for the Team were to analyze district writing data, review best practices in the teaching of writing, reflect on the extent to which those best practices are being utilized in the district, and make recommendations for improvement.    

 

Data

 

What we did:

          The team broke down statewide writing assessment scores by benchmark according to each writing trait over a two year period. Then we analyzed areas of strength and weakness.  We also compared and reflected on relationships between data and our own personal experiences.

 

 

What we discovered:

·         Throughout the district, kids like to write and have a strong voice.

·         Statewide assessment scores in conventions and organization were consistently low.

·         Statewide assessment scores in conventions and sentence fluency decreased markedly over the two year period.

·         District learner outcomes do not match state wide testing results (students score higher on district learner outcomes than statewide assessments due to multiple and flexible opportunities). 

·         Males scored much lower than females overall at the middle school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Best Practices

 

What we did:

The team reviewed research on the “best practices” of teaching writing from a variety of books and periodicals.  Then we developed a priority list of best practices:

·         Recognize that students of all backgrounds and abilities can write.

·         Teach writing as a process.

·         Use a district-wide common vocabulary in the teaching of writing.

·         Teach grammar and mechanics in context of student writing.          

·         Write for a variety of purposes or real audiences.

·         Provide frequent, guided opportunities to write.

·         Teach writing through explicit mini-lessons with immediate practice.

·         Provide explicit instruction in sentence combining.

·         Evaluate constructively through individual conferences focusing on a few key areas.

·         Provide opportunities for writing across the curriculum.

·         Teach explicit self and peer editing skills — including modeling and monitoring.

·         Model the exemplary writing examples rather than average ones.

·         Build a collaborative community of writers so that students feel safe sharing their writing.

·         Provide frequent opportunities to use expressive mode.

·         Participate in inservice opportunities that reinforce best practices in the teaching of writing.

·         Provide students with choice in topic and publication.

 

Sources:

·         Write Source, Research Base

·         Danielson, The Improvement of Student Writing:  What Research Says. Spring 2000. http://www.icsac.org/jsi/2000v1i1/improvement

·         Cunningham. Research on …Writing Instruction Programs

·         Hydi, et al, A Look at the Standards Documents and State Standards

·         Cotton, Kathleen. Teaching Composition: Research on Effective Practices. February 1988. Available online: http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sirs/2/topsyn2.html

 

What we discovered:

·         There are conflicting ideas existing within the literature.

·         It is difficult to locate current research.

·         Technology is changing best practices.

 

 

 

Reflection on Best Practices

 

What we did:

            The team reflected on the list of “best practices” previously developed and our perceptions of school wide as well as district wide utilization of those practices.

 

 

What we discovered:

·         We had different interpretations of the terms we used. 

·         We have “holes” in our writing instruction, as well as strengths.

·         System realities limit our abilities to implement best practices.

·         We must have more district time to meet the needs of our changing population.

·         We don’t have conversations about writing instruction within the schools or even grade levels. 

·         We are glad to have a list to start conversations about exemplary writing instruction.

·         We teach to mastery every year, but students do not generalize and apply.  (They are not learning it long-term).

·         Best practices that we are currently doing on all levels are:

o       Recognizing that students of all backgrounds and abilities can write.

o       Teaching writing as a process.

o       Teaching grammar and mechanics in a context of student writing.

o       Providing opportunities for writing across the curriculum.

o       Providing students with choice in topic and publication.

·         Best practices that we are not currently doing on all levels are:

o       Using a district-wide common vocabulary in the teaching of writing.

o       Writing for a variety of purposes or real audiences.

o       Providing frequent, guided opportunities to write.

o       Evaluating constructively through individual conferences focusing on a few key areas.

o       Participating in inservice opportunities that reinforce best practices in the teaching of writing.

 

 

 

Recommendations

 

After gathering and analyzing test data as well as reviewing and reflecting on “best practices,” the Creswell School District Writing Success Team makes the following recommendations:

Articulation

Analyze writing assessment data yearly, and communicate results both within schools and between schools.

Schedule regular meetings to have time to share and learn about what is happening in each building concerning curriculum, student needs, and scheduling.

Adopt a building-wide common writing process vocabulary (including editing marks) and share it district-wide.

Dedicate K-3 curriculum primarily to language arts and math, integrating science and social studies concepts.

 

Adoption

Each school needs time to explore issues and adopt writing programs that reflect their specific needs. Schools would meet yearly on an ongoing basis to compare results to ensure consistency throughout the district. 

Research Oregon schools that have high assessment scores in Conventions.  What methods and materials are those schools using?

Develop a K-5 committee consisting of one member from each grade level, special education representative, and administrative representative to explore and recommend writing curriculum adoption schoolwide.  Committee also needs to address reading curriculum, which is a part of language arts, to insure compatibility between reading and writing curriculum adoptions.  The two programs do not need to be from the same publisher, but the committee needs to have flexibility to uniquely address the needs of the student population.  (Special ed. law is moving in the direction of not allowing eligibilities for learning disabled if research based instruction has not occurred in reading.)  Funding for the entire building is a necessity.

Provide introductory and follow-up training for all materials adopted.

 

Professional Development

Make writing a district-wide focus.

Provide ongoing training in best practices, including new resources and curriculum,

Make opportunities available for classroom visits, both in-district and out-of-district.    

 

Learner Outcomes

Change learner outcomes.

Rather than doing language arts in its entirety, break into three components: reading, writing, and speaking. 

 

When focusing on scope and sequence, there should be multiple representatives from all buildings.  Work-in-progress as well as the results needs to be shared within the buildings.

 

Use kid language and make it a kid friendly tool so it can be used for conferencing with students on their own outcomes.

 

Infrastructure

 

Create an environment conducive to producing the best assessment results where students are invested in the outcomes.  Include special schedules, brain food, movement, breaks, encouragement, and celebrations when testing is completed.   

Provide adequate resources to enable teachers to effectively conference with students.

Create opportunities for student writing celebrations, such as a “Writing Night.”  The basic goal is to give students different reasons/audiences for whom to write.

 

Utilize a contract that the students sign off on skills learned/mastered during conferencing, personalizing the educational experience.  

Master schedules need to include an adequate writing block as a priority.