District Writing Assessment provokes discontent among GBHS students

District+Writing+Assessment+provokes+discontent+among+GBHS+students

Each English class in the Roseville Union Joint High School District is required to complete an annual District Writing Assessment – an individual writing sample from each student.

The DWA is scored on a one to six scale, one being the lowest and six the highest. It’s also possible for a student to receive a “U” score, meaning their essay is unable to be graded, usually given if a student completely disregards the essay prompt.

Recently there has been much discontent and irritation over the DWA. Some students and teachers claim it has no clear, intended purpose since it typically doesn’t impact English grades.

RJUHSD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction John Montgomery said the original purpose of the DWA was to aid both students and teachers.

“The District Writing Assessment was developed years ago with the purpose of providing students with an opportunity for objective, district-wide assessment,” Montgomery said. “It also served as a great source of data to inform teachers what professional development was needed in the area of instructional strategies and interventions.”

The DWA originated at Granite Bay High School and was very successful according to Montgomery, so the entire district adopted it as a requirement.

However, GBHS English teacher David Tastor said the DWA has fallen away from its original purpose because the procedure is no longer being followed.

Tastor said much time was spent norming and re-standardizing the assessment so all the students were graded the same, but this is no longer honored.

He said he attributes the current controversy surrounding the DWA to the lack of norming and discussion of the prompt.

“I think if there’s discontent or bitterness toward it it’s because the intent of the process was fully gone,” Tastor said. “It’s lost any sort of meaning. They don’t come back to the school in a timely manner. We just got ours back.”

Senior Shelby McPhail said the DWA served no purpose in her English class and took time away from other learning opportunities.

“(The DWA) is dumb and a waste of teachers’ time,” McPhail said. “Students are writing on a prompt that usually means nothing to them … (when they could be) learning and advancing their writing skills.”

Frustration with the DWA, when she was given the prompt in her Advanced Placement literature class, McPhail didn’t answer it. Instead, she wrote an essay full of quotes from her favorite television shows.

“I got to write about something that actually entertained me not something boring,” McPhail said.

GBHS English teacher and department chair Anthony Davis said he agrees that over the years, the DWA has lost its meaning.

“If it’s supposed to be for the students … what are they getting out of it, in terms of understanding of how they’re doing as a reader or writer?” Davis said. “It kind of turned into ‘ranking’ kids more than anything … and using it as sort of a ‘training vehicle’ for younger teachers … I don’t (think it’s very important) and I don’t think the kids do, either.”

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