NEWTON, MA | September 29, 2009
Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) has been awarded $2.2 million by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to evaluate the effectiveness of a writing curriculum for grades 3 through 12 called The Writers’ Express.
In 2008, The Writers’ Express reached 20,000 students in Greater Boston, New York City, San Francisco, and other cities. Over the next four years, researchers in EDC’s Learning and Teaching Division will be evaluating use of the curriculum and its accompanying professional development for teachers and administrators at the 4th and 5th grade levels. Researchers will study its impact on student writing performance in 70 Massachusetts elementary schools.
Student performance on the most recent national writing assessment indicates that only about a quarter of students in U.S. schools, across all grade levels, are proficient in writing. Only 28 percent of fourth graders obtained scores at or above the proficient level. Fully 58 percent had scores at the basic level, revealing only a “general grasp” of the writing task, and 14 percent had writing skills below this basic level.
“Past studies have indicated that The Writers’ Express curriculum holds great promise for improving student writing across grade levels and with diverse students,” said EDC’s Andrea Winokur Kotula, who will lead the new research. “We are excited to produce the first rigorous test of its effectiveness on student performance in elementary classrooms,” she said.
The new study will evaluate The Writers’ Express program that comprises a student curriculum and accompanying teacher and administrator training and coaching. Researchers will determine the impact of the student curriculum on writing performance on Massachusetts’ state assessment in randomly selected treatment and control schools.
“This study is timely as the nation renews its interest in the writing abilities of K-12 students,” said Vicki Jacobs, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, who serves as a literacy consultant on the project. “The findings will inform, significantly, the ongoing debates about best methods for teaching writing,” she said.
Preliminary results of the study are expected in summer, 2011.