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Language Arts

From DA

Can software spot a great essay?

Nancy Mann Jackson
June, 2015
Students at Cherokee County School District use Pearson’s WriteToLearn to help them become better writers.

As Common Core standards require students to write extensively across the curriculum, more districts are using automated assessment tools to save teachers time and give students immediate analysis.

All learning relies on literacy

Jessica Terrell
June, 2015
Giving students a chance to practice academic English can be a part of any subject lesson, she says. And that’s where ESL instructors can play an important role by becoming peer coaches for classroom teachers, says John Segota, TESOL’s associate executive director for public policy.

The biggest changes in reading instruction center on embedding literacy across all subjects. Engineering concepts, for example, can be used to break down the plots of stories and analyze characters. And ESL specialists should collaborate with subject teachers to align instruction so students are learning the same words and concepts.

Digital tools analyze a fifth grader's essay

Angela Pascopella
June, 2015

A living, breathing teacher is the best tool to assess a written essay.

However, DA found a few tools that can do almost the same job, pointing out narrative, organization and purpose of an essay. We used an authentic essay that a fifth-grade girl in Connecticut wrote about her very big mastiff dog named Bam Bam.

And two tools, PEG Writing and ETS’ E-Rater, were able to assess the same essay separately.

Here is the original essay:

Writing assessments: In their words

Nancy Mann Jackson
June, 2015
Birmingham Public Schools use ETS’ Criterion as a learning and teaching tool. Students get immediate feedback on grammar and mechanics, as well as links to exemplary writing with detailed techniques to improve.

Some vendors have developed tech tools that will solve the challenges of teaching and assessing student writing effectively. We asked several experts to share their thoughts about writing assessment concerns and how administrators can address those issues. Here’s what they had to say:

Sponsored Content

Using smart assessments to drive personalized learning

Katie Nicholson

Computer adaptive tests (CAT) are really growing in
popularity. With an adaptive model, which technology
clearly facilitates, great efficiencies are gained.

Mississippi district addresses new writing expectations and sees improvement in both writing skills and instruction

Curriculum Associates

Improving the writing skills of all 6,500 students emerged as a top priority for the administrators of Mississippi’s Gulfport School District beginning in fall 2014. “We needed a resource that addressed the rigorous writing requirements of the Common Core, as well as one that would allow educators to teach writing in a systematic way,” says Patty Cooper, ELA Curriculum Specialist for Gulfport.

Building the Habits of Close Reading to Support Comprehension


Close reading is a popular term today in elementary literacy classrooms and a requirement in the Common Core ELA standards in order to ensure students are college- and career- ready. It enables students to independently comprehend increasingly challenging texts. Students need to develop the habits of mind and the skills necessary to unpack the deep, embedded meanings found in complex, challenging texts on their own.

Changing teaching practices is a crucial component of a successful digital conversion

Scott Drossos

An increasing number of educators are understanding that to implement a successful digital conversion, rather than focusing solely on providing access to technology, administrators must focus instead on creating personalized learning outcomes that are the result of more effective digital teaching strategies.

New Tools for Personalizing Literacy


Students today are innately comfortable with digital tools, and one way to enable personalized literacy instruction is through these tools. Close-reading techniques, student-submitted writing responses to book-specific prompts and other practices are made possible through a new digital platform.