2013 Kansas Writing Assessment VOLUNTARY
On Tuesday, January 15, 2013, the Kansas State Board of Education unanimously approved making the 2013 Kansas Writing Assessment voluntary. Following you will find the history, rationale and additional information the Board considered in making its decision. For those schools and districts choosing to administer the state writing assessment, please follow the normal schedule.
The State of Kansas administers five statewide assessments in the areas of: 1) math; 2) reading; 3) science; 4) history/government; and 5) writing. The math, reading and science assessments are required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Both math and reading are given every year in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Science is given every year in grades 4 and 7 and once in high school. The history/government and writing assessments are given on an every-other-year schedule with writing scheduled for this year (2013) and history/government scheduled for 2014. The history/government and writing assessments are state assessments but not required by ESEA or NCLB. Given this, the State Board of Education has more flexibility and discretion with these two assessments. An example of this flexibility was in 2008 when the State Board voted to suspend the 2009 writing assessment and the 2010 history/government assessment due to the pressures of NCLB and changes taking place in Kansas.
The next generation of assessments for English Language Arts and Literacy, based on the Common Core Standards adopted by the State Board in October 2010, will be administered in the 2014-15 school year. This assessment will essentially combine our current reading and writing assessments into one assessment based on the Common Core Standards and focused on reading, writing, research and language with the addition of performance tasks. Stated another way, the 2013 writing assessment is the last time the state will administer this specific assessment.
Kansas introduced to the field last year the KWIET (pronounced “Quiet”) platform for use with the 2013 writing assessment. KWIET is an opportunity to expose students and educators at all levels to the kinds of performance tasks and performance task scoring that the next-generation of assessments will require in content areas including reading, writing, math, history/government, science, and CTE. KWIET is an online environment where students compose pieces of writing in response to writing tasks and where teachers evaluate, score, and provide feedback to that student writing. Available for state, district, school and classroom writing tasks at all grade levels, KWIET becomes in essence an online portfolio of student writing that allows educators to track student writing progress over time. Because KWIET is an online tool, it follows each student across grade levels, buildings and districts within the state of Kansas.
Many schools and districts are using KWIET; however, we are also aware of some schools that have had difficulty implementing KWIET because of their student information systems and hardware issues. KSDE responded to these concerns by allowing schools to do the writing assessment via KWIET or paper/pencil and to submit their results in another format. Even given this option, KSDE continues to receive concerns from the field about the writing assessment for a variety of reasons. One concern involves the prompts, or reading passages, the students use to generate their writing sample. The concern from some is that the prompts are not common core prompts. Another concern is the amount of change happening in K-12 education; i.e. transition to the new standards; preparation for new assessments; and the possibility of a new accreditation system (to name just a few). Flexibility from the State Board is very limited in terms of assessments. The reading, math and science assessments are required by federal law with no flexibility on the part of the State Board. However, the writing and history/government assessments are state assessments and do allow for flexibility by the State Board.
By allowing the assessment to be given on a voluntary basis, districts can make the decision as to which schools take the assessment, what form of the assessment (paper/pencil or KWIET) to use whether they use a locally-developed assessment, or opt to not take the assessment at all. By no means does this decision signify the State Department or the State Board devalues writing. Writing is an essential component in the success of the students in Kansas. Writing is occurring each and every day in our schools. Writing will continue to happen in our schools.
Schools choosing to take the Writing Assessment have four options. These options were outlined in an e-mail in mid-December. Approval by the State Board for voluntary participation in the writing assessment does not change these options. The options include:
1. Schools choosing to take the Writing Assessment have the following four options for administration and reporting of data:
- The use of KWIET with the reporting of scores via KWIET, or
- The use of KWIET with the reporting of scores via an Excel Spreadsheet developed by CETE, or
- Paper/pencil assessment with the reporting of scores via KWIET, or
- Paper/pencil assessment with the reporting of scores via an Excel Spreadsheet developed by CETE.
Schools using any of the above four options will be provided with student, school and district level reports from KSDE.
Schools using locally-developed writing assessments will not provide any data to KSDE; consequently, these schools will not receive any student, school or district reports. Finally, state-level data will not be available.
For any additional questions, please contact the Help Desk, (785) 296-2261.