New school year means new writing test
South Dakota will have a new writing assessment beginning 2010-11. Called WriteToLearn, it’s an online, formative assessment.

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New school year means new writing test

South Dakota will have a new statewide writing assessment beginning in the 2010-11 school year. The online, formative assessment is called WriteToLearn.

State law requires that all students in grades 5, 7 and 10 participate in a state writing assessment.

“Based on feedback from the field, we knew that we needed to make a change, and we wanted to move in the direction of an online system that provides immediate feedback,” said Wade Pogany, director of Assessment and Technology Systems for the Department of Education.

WriteToLearn was piloted in March 2010 in 77 school districts and received favorable reviews overall.

“Teachers were pleased with the move to a formative assessment,” Pogany said, which allows them to gauge student understanding and to adjust their instruction accordingly. Students indicated that they were most excited by the immediate feedback provided by the online system.

The state Department of Education will purchase student licenses for the WriteToLearn program for all public school students in the required grades. Students will be required to respond to one writing prompt during the three separate testing windows: Oct. 1-Nov. 30; Dec. 1-Feb. 28; and March 1-May 31.

Trainings for testing coordinators and teachers will be held in early September. District compliance will be measured strictly by student participation during each testing window. The state will not collect individual student scores, and school scores will not be compared.

Districts will have the opportunity to purchase off-grade licenses for the WriteToLearn program at a state-negotiated rate. Additional information related to off-grade licenses and the state writing assessment can be found at http://doe.sd.gov/octa/assessment/writetolearn.asp.

A demo of the WriteToLearn program is also available at http://school.writetolearn.net/demo.html.

For more information, contact Erin Larsen at the South Dakota Department of Education, (605) 773-2533.