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Strategies for Writers Learner-Verification Study: Executive Summary

The Study

During 2012–2013, more than 700 U.S. students took part in a quasi-experimental learner-verification study to determine the effectiveness of Strategies for Writers on improving students’ writing skills. The research divided participating students in Grade 4 and Grade 7 into two sets of classrooms per grade level. One set of classrooms received Strategies for Writers and the other set used their schools’ existing instructional materials.

Independent Evaluation:
The writing of both sets of students in both grade levels was submitted to Educational Testing Services at the beginning and end of the school year. Educational Testing Services independently assessed the students’ writing using their Criterion® system. Students wrote narrative, informative/explanatory, and opinion or argument essays; each was evaluated according to a 6-point rubric (1 = unsatisfactory; 6 = excellent).

Twenty-two schools in eight regionally diverse states took part in the study, and all 25 participating teachers had an average of a decade or more of experience in the classroom. Teachers in the Strategies for Writers classrooms received training on the program as well as all related materials, including online classroom management and student-facing instructional materials. At the end of the school year, all teachers completed a survey about their experiences using either Strategies for Writers or their existing instructional materials to teach writing.

This one-year longitudinal study was conducted by the University of Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center.

Students using Strategies for Writers had significant writing score gains.

Students in both Grade 4 and Grade 7 classrooms implementing Strategies for Writers improved their writing significantly over the 2012–2013 school year.

Researchers compared students’ scores by subtracting their pretest scores from their posttest scores to arrive at a gain score. These gain scores reflect how much a student improved over the course of the year.

Students’ scores were averaged to arrive at a mean gain score for each essay type. In all three text types, student mean scores improved significantly (p < .01) over the school year. In Grade 4, students showed the greatest mean gains in informative/explanatory essays. Grade 7 students showed the greatest gains in argument writing.

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