Nice job, Ricki.
...I am well aware that many teachers in Kentucky would like to see portfolios disappear. Teaching writing is hard work and teaching fourth-grade writing is even harder. But does that mean we should get rid of it? Of course not! It just means we have to train fourth-grade teachers better. We need to find fourth-grade teachers who are passionate about writing instruction and who believe in its value. Having trained writing coaches in elementary schools will give the entire staff more confidence and ability to teach writing, which will then create a quality schoolwide writing program.
Over the past 15 years, several changes have been made to the Writing Portfolio. First, we used to require six pieces from fourth-grade students; now we require three. If the students come to fourth grade with a background in writing, and writing is taught with enthusiasm each day, then completing Writing Portfolios will not be too strenuous for both students and teachers. This is a realistic, manageable and appropriate assessment.
As time goes on, I believe that our writing instruction has improved and our expectations have increased. ...If a subject is not assessed, it will not be taught as thoroughly and with the same rigor.
With less commitment to writing, students will also have less chance for introspection, analysis and synthesis, all skills to promote higher-order thinking. ... Doing a 90-minute on-demand prompt does not allow for true introspection, analysis and peer review.
As adults, we often write something and let it sit for a day or two before revising it and also share it with a peer to receive feedback. This cannot happen for a child during the on-demand portion of the test, thus making it less like a real-world experience.
Some educators believe that if we remove the Writing Portfolio and increase the weight of the on-demand portion of our assessment, teachers will still teach writing rigorously. However, on-demand only addresses the writing of articles and persuasive letters. I am certain we will eventually see an end to personal narratives, memoirs, short stories and poetry. This would be a real tragedy for our students.
In addition, on-demand is a contrived prompt that is not authentic to students' real lives. ...Student choice is essential for motivating children to have a true, authentic reason for writing.
... I hope you consider my request to keep the Writing Portfolio so that Kentucky children will continue to think at higher levels and proceed forward instead of remaining at status quo.