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Can Writing be Assessed?
We Don’t Do It Because It Takes Time
Will Fitzhugh is the founder of The Concord Review, which publishes academic research papers by secondary students.
MARCH 10, 2014
From the New York Times
ROOM for DEBATE
We don't assess student writing well because, in fact, we don’t want to take the trouble. We have long preferred formulaic 刻板的 rubricized 評分標準 writing which, if at all possible, we would rather have "scored" by computer.
The Education Testing Service, which develops and administers the SAT, says it can grade "16,000 essays in 20 seconds." With that approach, writing assessment will remain a joke, and students' writing will be the kind of formulaic junk刻板的垃圾文章 they hate and we deplore深感遺憾/哀嘆.
The International Baccalaureate國際文憑組織 assigns 4,000-word extended essays長篇文章, which are evaluated by external readers組織以外的讀者. The National Writing Board spends more than two hours on each high school history research paper it evaluates — and sends the authors a four- to five-page report. These are serious writing assessments嚴謹的寫作評估, but it seems that no consultant, no pundit博學的權威人士, no school system and most teachers don’t allow for that kind of time to read and assess students’ academic writing.
As long as the English department -- instead of, say, the history department -- controls reading and writing, and as long as the colleges ask for only a 500-word personal “college” essay from applicants, nonfiction academic expository 非文學的學術論述型文章writing will remain probably the most dumbed-down蠢化的 activity in our schools.
Better assessment of student writing is possible, as the International Baccalaureate and the National Writing Board have demonstrated, but it takes the understanding that a lot more time and effort are required if we want to do it.
國際文憑組織The International Baccalaureate
國際文憑組織（International Baccalaureate Organization）是一個非牟利性質的國際教育基金會，成立於1968年，總部設在瑞士的日內瓦，在新加坡、布宜諾斯艾利斯和紐約分別設有辦事處。國際文憑組織面向全世界的兒童和青少年提供四個國際文憑教育項目：小學項目（PYP）、中學項目（MYP）、大學預科項目（DP）和IBCC。在2009年2月，全世界有134個國家地區的2572所學校、超過69.8萬學生採用了這些教育項目。國際文憑組織的課程與評估中心（IBCA）設在英國的加的夫。
It Can Be Taught and Assessed
Beth D. Cohen is a professor of law, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the legal research and writing program at Western New England University School of Law. She is a member of the board of directors of Scribes, the American Society of Legal Writers.
MARCH 10, 2014
Writing can be assessed. Any skill that can be taught, any skill that can be improved, can be assessed. Effective writing is a fundamental skill and a vital form of communication. And it is critically important to students, individually and collectively, that we continue to value and encourage good writing.
Individually, we judge the merits of writing whenever we read. In an educational setting, technical aspects of writing such as spelling, grammar, vocabulary and punctuation can be evaluated. So too can clarity, organization and analysis. Grading rubrics, outlines, checklists and model essays are some of the available tools to help assess written work.
But writing is a process, and the most beneficial assessment is geared toward improvement rather than just assigning a score or a grade. The process of writing and rewriting takes patience, reflection and perseverance -- skills that are related to academic, professional and personal success. Ongoing assessment helps both teaching and learning, and students should be encouraged to write as frequently as possible with rigorous feedback and opportunities for revision.
The newly revised essay-optional SAT may undermine the importance of good writing skills. Because the essay is no longer mandatory, schools may spend less time and effort on teaching and assessing writing. Those who can afford coaching will be most likely to opt in to write the essay and those who cannot will remain at a disadvantage. Since most students lack proficiency in writing, it makes no sense to minimize the significance of this skill on exams. Effective writing is integrally related to critical thinking, communication, mastery of subject matter and problem solving.
It has been said that resilience may be the best predictor of happiness and success. Of all of the academic and test-taking skills, writing, and rewriting, requires resilience.