HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
In 2006, a group of OUSD classroom teachers led by Instructional Facilitator Amy Brooks Gottesfeld in partnership with the University of California’s Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP,) initiated the Writing Proficiency Project (WPP.) The project evolved into a district-wide initiative impacting over 350 teachers and 20,000 students. During the five-year course of the project, over 100 classroom teachers were trained as teacher leaders to help facilitate elements of the project at their school sites. OUSD teachers-on-special-assignment who were also BAWP Teacher-Consultants served as writing coaches at the district level to develop prompts and scoring tools, coordinate and deliver professional development, and coach teachers and teacher leaders on writing inquiry and instruction. These coaches were: Amy Brooks Gottesfeld, Mary Hurley, Stephanie Travaille, David Braden, Eileen Ingenthron and Sarah Breed.
The goals of the project were to improve the teaching of writing and to develop common understanding of grade-level standards and grade-level writing proficiency. A foundational component of the initiative included a Process Writing Assessment (PWA) for grades K-9. The PWA articulated a grade-level sequence for expository writing with a priority-genre for each grade level. Most schools selected teacher-leaders to facilitate calibration and scoring of student writing assessments. The project provided Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) of teachers and administrators with tools and resources necessary to engage in a site-based cycles of inquiry around writing. Some of the resources developed by the WPP include: rubrics, anchor papers, training papers, protocols, and materials from professional development on how to improve instruction based on the assessments.
In the spring of 2010, facing massive budget cuts, the district eliminated funding for Writing Proficiency Project. This website archives all the Process Writing Assessment prompts, tools, and curricular resources so that school sites can independently carry on this important work around the teaching of writing.
The K3 prompts and materials posted on this website were developed by BAWP Teacher Consultant Michelle Hackel in collaboration with teachers from the following OUSD schools: ASCEND, Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, International Community School, Redwood Heights Elementary, Garfield Elementary and Sequoia Elementary.
The K-3 prompts and materials were designed with the knowledge that children in grades K-2 are developing writers focused on expressing their ideas in print. As readers they are just beginning to encounter and differentiate between the genres. As writers their capacity to explore and express themselves using the parameters of genre emerges as their exposure to literature grows. Therefore, although the K-2 Process Writing Assessment prompts do fall into the different categories of writing genres that children are expected to practice (according to the California Language Arts Standards for these grade levels), they are assessed primarily on the basis of their written expression and not their mastery of genre.
In Kindergarten particularly, the PWA recognizes that genre cannot be of central concern to emerging writers. By the third grade, the lessons and prompts focus more particularly on the characteristics of the different genres that the K-2 children have been exposed to over the years. Therefore, the rubrics do include guidelines for assessing students' mastery of the characteristics of the genres tested. The PWA in grades 4-9 assesses children in a same genre all year, to allow teachers to evaluate students'’ progress in that particular type of writing. The K-3 PWA instead introduces children gradually to the different writing genres over the course of four years, and therefore the prompts in any given year fall into different genres.
Upper Elementary and Middle Grades
Six types of writing form the basis of a genre progression designed to support students in mastering a range of academic demands as well as deepen the professional practice of grades 4-9 teachers. Current research on writing instruction and demands for expository writing in the workplace and college informed the writing types (or genres) selection. The writing sequence is designed to:
- engage early writers
- respond to the developmental needs at each of the different grades
- prepare students for state writing assessments
- provide development in critical thinking that is the basis of all writing
- link writing instruction across all grade levels
The writing types are outlined below:
Grade 4 - Response to Literature
Grade 5 - Expository: Description
Grade 6 - Expository: Report on Information
Grade 7 - Persuasive
Grade 8 - Response to Literature
The 4th and 5th grade prompts were developed by Oakland teachers and BAWP TC's Sonny Kim and Therea Sanders with support from BAWP TC Rebecca Garcia-Gonzalez. Mary Hurley and the WPP team helped revise the prompts. The middle school prompts were designed by Meredith Pike-Baky and Amy Brooks Gottesfeld with support from Stephanie Travaille, the WPP team, and many classroom teachers.
High School Writing
Preparing students for workplace and college success requires a focus on more rigorous habits of mind and writing that responds critically to text. A 2001 report on academic literacy the California community colleges, state colleges, and universities identified the most crucial academic skills for student success beyond the K-12 classroom. They report, among a number of other findings, that
- Only 1/3 of entering college students are sufficiently prepared for the two most frequently assigned writing tasks: analyzing information or arguments and synthesizing information from several sources, according to faculty respondents.
- Faculty expects students to reexamine their thesis, to consider and reconsider additional points or arguments, to reshape and reconstruct as they compose, and to submit carefully revised and edited work.
After three years of focus on expository and research writing, the project revised its thinking about the demands of 9th grade writing and the WPP team designed new 9th grade prompts to reflect the more rigorous writing standard of writing in response to an expository passage. This writing requires students to understand a passage and the position of its author and to respond by taking a position. This kind of writing prepares students for college writing expectations and closely aligns to the writing students will do in other content areas.
English Language Arts Manager