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Essaypop Gives Students a Distinct Advantage as They Prepare for the Redesigned STAAR Exam

Essaypop Gives Students a Distinct Advantage as They Prepare for the Redesigned STAAR Exam

Essaypop Gives Students a Distinct Advantage as They Prepare for the Redesigned STAAR Exam

essaypop

essaypop

Jan 5, 2024

Jan 5, 2024

10 minutes

10 minutes

Let’s dispel a myth. Writing, despite what has been reported, is very much alive and well on the redesigned STAAR test.

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On the Redesigned STAAR exam, Students Approach Writing Differently.

If you are a member of Houston ISD, please refer to this document that details our RFP with your district.

When news of a STAAR test redesign landed a few years back, rumors circulated that the test would be composed of 100% multiple-choice questions and that the writing component would be eliminated. Now that the new-look test is being rolled out, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is publishing STAAR guidelines, it is clear that this is actually not true.

According to the agency, "beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, RLA assessments will assess both reading and writing in grades 3 through 8 and will include new questions and extended constructed response, or essays, at every grade level." As it turns out, the reports of the death of writing on the STAAR test have been highly exaggerated (apologies to Mark Twain).

The fact is, the agency had no choice but to include writing on the new test. House Bill 3906 established a “multiple choice cap” on standardized tests, meaning that no more than 75% of points on the STAAR test can be based on multiple-choice questions. In compliance with this bill, Texas educators have designed new question types that reflect the types of questions kids see in the classroom, questions that allow students more ways to show their understanding. In most cases, this means through written responses.

Source: Texas Education Agency, STAAR redesign guidelines

The TEA also has indicated that based on research and educator feedback, the essay component will shift from a standalone prompt to writing in response to specific reading selections. Students will write in one of three possible modes: informational, argumentative, or correspondence and these responses will be scored using a 5-point rubric that emphasizes mechanics, coherence, and organization.

The types of writing students will do on STAAR have changed. Let’s take a look.

Certainly, and by design, the look and feel of the redesigned test's writing requirements will be somewhat different than in the past. As mentioned, there will no longer be any standalone writing prompts based on open-ended questions. Instead, the writing requirements are more relevantly associated and written in line with the reading selections that students see on the exam, and their responses will require the integration of text evidence.

These slides from the TEA website show the rationale of the test designers –

Source: Texas Education Agency, STAAR redesign guidelines

As you can see, the writing prompts are closely tied to specific reading selections and are 100% text-dependent. Some prompts require students to compose shorter, paragraph-length responses; others ask students to write more extended, constructed responses.

Another key difference from past exams according to the agency is that "the STAAR test will prioritize cross-curricular passages in RLA that reference topics that students have learned about in other classes." So it will not be uncommon for students to encounter a science, math, or history-based selection or passage. This means that writing across the curriculum will be even more important and relevant than ever in Texas schools.

Finally, all of the test-taking will be happening online which is another departure from the past. One of the advantages of this is that the test will provide a full suite of robust accommodations for students with specific learning needs. But a purely online interface also means that all students will need to practice writing on their devices throughout the school year so that they may compose their thoughts thoroughly and quickly come test time.

So writing, while presented differently, is still most definitely a big part of the redesigned STAAR test, and this is why a dedicated writing program like essaypop will be such an essential tool going forward for Texas schools. In fact, those schools and districts that are strategic about how they teach their students to tackle the types of writing they will encounter on the new exam will have a distinct advantage over those who are not.

Why essaypop is the perfect tool to prepare students for the writing portion of the STAAR test.

Essaypop is a writing platform that is uniquely suited to prepare students for the types of writing that they will encounter on the revised STAAR test because essaypop teaches students how to proficiently organize and structure academic writing whether it be a paragraph-length response or a fully-expanded essay

With essaypop's frame writing method, students compose academic paragraphs, short-response essays, and longer, multiple-paragraph essays one element at a time. The system trains them to develop a thesis or claim, then support it with evidence, and then make sense of that evidence with explanation and/or analysis. It supports student writing using dedicated, color-coded writing frames that focus students on the various components of academic writing. It is a system that breaks the essay down into pieces that are comprehensible for students and that allow them to focus on the component at hand.

If students need help or assistance, the platform surrounds the writing with scaffolded explanations and models as well as sentence stems that teach them how to use academic language relevantly within their compositions. These scaffolds are like having an unobtrusive tutor on call 24/7.

Students can add elements to their writing such as additional evidence and analysis or counterargument and rebuttal, and they can arrange and rearrange the writing frames as they experiment with different ways of getting their point across. Here is a view of the essaypop student writing area –

And, as students write, the system converts what’s being composed in the frames into an MLA-formatted document in real time.

Essaypop provides organizational templates for any kind of writing, whether it be a simple academic paragraph, an extended constructed response, or a longer, multiple-paragraph essay, and these are precisely the kind of scaffolding students need to be successful with the types of writing they will encounter on the redesigned STAAR test.

Frankly, teachers need these structures too to better support their writing instruction, and this is particularly true for teachers who do not teach RLA, but who are expected to include writing instruction in their classes. Providing these teachers with a structured writing system helps them build confidence which will only make their students more adept at tackling the kinds of cross-curricular prompts they will encounter on the exam. Nationwide, science, math, and history teachers are using essaypop to improve their writing instruction.

It should be noted as well that multiple teachers within a school can use essaypop at no additional cost, and this is because licenses follow students; teachers at licensed schools are not charged.

Read about writing perfect academic paragraphs with essaypop.

How to select the perfect frame-writing template.

Essaypop makes monitoring and assessing student work simple.

Teachers can view and assess student writing from a clever dashboard which allows them to monitor progress and quickly provide feedback faster than ever before. Moreover, essaypop is customizable, so the STAAR exam’s 5-point rubrics can be easily uploaded and applied within the essaypop platform. What’s more is all assessment data is collected in real-time and students, parents, teachers, schools and districts can view actionable data.

Essaypop is the perfect environment for peer-to-peer feedback.

One of Essaypop’s most popular features is the social, interactive, and collaborative environment called the Hive. In this safe space, students who are organized into clusters view the writing of their peers and provide commentary and feedback based on the language of the rubric. The Hive makes writing a team sport and energizes the classroom by giving everybody purpose and agency. The two images below show how the Hive works.

Learn more about the Hive.

Summary

Writing is not going away on the redesigned STAAR test, nor should it. Writing is a critical skill that should be taught, reinforced, and assessed regularly. As we’ve shown, at least 75% of the questions on the exam cannot be multiple-choice. This means that students will be writing a lot, albeit differently. A tool like essaypop can give schools and districts a distinct advantage when it comes to preparing for an exam like the STAAR. We offer a comprehensive, methodical, and research-based solution that is being used by educators nationwide. Schools and districts would be wise to have a deliberate plan of action to address writing instruction across all subjects. Essaypop was designed for this purpose.