National Writing Project

A Briefing on Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment

Date: September 23, 2011

Summary: NWP's Director of National Programs, Tanya Baker, spoke at a briefing held on September 15, 2011 by the Alliance for Excellent Education. The briefing was on a recent report. Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment, which identifies instructional practices shown to improve students' writing abilities.


Although some progress has been made in improving the literacy achievement of students in American high schools during the last twenty years, the majority of students still do not read or write well enough to meet grade-level demands. Poor literacy skills play a role in why many of these students do not complete high school. Among those who do graduate, many will not be ready for college or a career where reading and writing are required.

These young people will find themselves at a serious disadvantage in successfully pursuing some form of higher education, securing a job that pays a living wage, or participating in social and civic activities.

One tool with potential for improving students' ability to convey thoughts and ideas effectively through text is classroom-based writing assessment. Such formative assessments allow teachers to gauge the effectiveness of their instructional practices, modify instruction as needed, and provide students with feedback on writing strengths and areas in need of further development.

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