How I Chose My Focus
As an educator, I have always wrestled with struggling to see great growth in my students writing. I researched the standards and knew what to expect from them, however I never saw more growth than the typical growth students get with simply being in school. With the 2019-2020 school year approaching, I was preparing to teach third grade for the first time. Third grade is when students take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). I heard many stories of third grade students taking the test while crying and often giving up. This broke my heart and I didn't want that experience for my future third graders. This drove my decision to focusing on writing, which is a large portion of the CAASPP. My classroom is made up of 26 third grade students in a diverse elementary school. 34% of all 26 students are considered English Language Learners (ELL) and receive designated English Language Development (ELD) instruction for 30 minutes every day. Keeping in mind students backgrounds and different individual academic needs, I altered lessons as needed to get as much academic growth as possible for my specific students. I also took into account my district's strategic plan for 2019 - 2020 school year. The strategic plan states that the number one goal of the district is student learning, achievement, and access. The first key initiative in this goal is to have students graduate college and career ready, which is aligned with the National Common Core Standards. Because this is the district's goal it helped make my decision to incorporate technology into my writing lessons. Not only do they need computer skills for CAASPP but it aligns with having my students 21st century ready.
California Writing Background
In 2009, State school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals and launched this effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life (NGA and CCSSO, 2010, rev. 2019). The need for national common core standards came from results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The PISA is an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students' reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). The assessment results from this test shows how the United States of America have been consistently falling behind other countries in math, science, and reading for several years. In 2009 among the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics, these results did not significantly change since the last time the report was conducted in 2006 (Walker, 2010). These assessment results put the United States behind countries such as Korea, Finland, New Zealand, and Canada. In 2009 The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) created the common core standards to make our students college and career ready. There are grade specific standards for every subject, including writing. In 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administered an online writing assessment to 24,100 eighth-graders and 28,100 twelfth-graders. The results from this written test showed that only 3% of both eighth and twelfth grade students performed at an advanced writing level. 54% of twelfth-graders performed at grade level, while only 44% of eighth-graders performed at grade level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012).
The common core standards caused California to begin assessing students grades 3 - 8 using the California Assessments of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). This assessment is aligned with the National Common Core Standards. According to the CAASPP website in 2018-2019, 28.04% of third grade students did not meet California state standards for English Language Arts. 23.42% of third graders nearly met California State standards. 22.19% of all third graders met state standards and 26.35% exceeded the California State standards. A portion of the English Language Arts test involves students responding to different writing prompts and being expected to respond accordingly (California Department of Education, 2019). The CAASPP test is taken every school year, the assessment results are compared to previous years and are used to determine gaps in knowledge or skills of students. Students are also tested in other subjects: mathematics and science. In these tests, again students have writing prompts that they need to respond to using writing skills learned prior to the test.
District Writing Background
My district assesses student writing through a district writing test for grades kindergarten - 2nd grade. This test is administered in the classroom with paper and pencil and are later assessed by a panel of teachers selected by the district. Along with the writing assessment for the primary grades, the district tests grades 3-11 writing, by having them take the CAASPP. There is no additional district wide writing test for grades 3 - 11. Teachers have the freedom to select writing assessments to assess their own students. The language arts curriculum, Benchmark Universe, has writing assessments on the benchmark internet portal for teachers to use. The researcher’s district strategic plan 2019 - 2020 states that the number one goal of the district is student learning, achievement, and access. The first key initiative in this goal is to have students graduate college and career ready, which is aligned with the National Common Core Standards.
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