Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Curriculum-Based Measurement of Writing in Kindergarten and First Grade: An Investigation of Production and Qualitative Scores

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Curriculum-Based Measurement of Writing in Kindergarten and First Grade: An Investigation of Production and Qualitative Scores

Article excerpt

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) allows for changes in the way that students with learning disabilities (LD) are identified. A response to intervention (RTI) process is one option for identifying students for special education services. RTI requires valid tools for screening, effective interventions, and measures that can adequately assess students' response to these interventions. For students with potential reading disabilities, scientifically validated assessments such as curriculum-based measurement (CBM) assessments of oral reading fluency (Deno, 1985; Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins 2001) and early reading abilities, such as letter naming fluency, letter sound fluency, and phonological awareness measures (e.g., AIMSWeb, 2006; Kaminski & Good, 1996) are available.

There are few, if any, scientifically validated assessments of early writing that could be adopted to identify students with writing disabilities. Specifically, valid assessments are needed to determine which students are at risk for writing disabilities and to monitor children's progress in learning to write. This article describes the efforts to develop and validate a new writing assessment for children in kindergarten and first grade. The Sentence Writing measure investigated in this study was developed in the vein of CBM reading measures and is designed to be an indicator of global performance, quickly administered, reliable, valid, and sensitive to growth (Deno, 1985).


In order to accurately assess early writing development, assessments must be sensitive to the developmental challenges faced by young writers. Theoretical models of writing illustrate the complexity of the task that proficient writers face as they coordinate cognitive, social, and self-regulatory processes to produce extended text (Hayes, 1996). Because young writers have not mastered the skills and processes of experienced writers, researchers have proposed alternate models of composition that account for children's developing competencies (e.g. Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987; Berninger & Swanson, 1994). Bereiter and Scardamalia have characterized children's writing as knowledge-telling rather than the more sophisticated knowledge-transformation process of adult writers. One explanation is that children rely on a simpler approach to generating and encoding ideas because knowledge-telling makes fewer cognitive demands for processes such as planning and revision (McCutchen, 1988). Children may devote less attention to planning and revising because translation, which involves generating ideas and transcribing them onto paper, is not yet automated and demands considerable cognitive energy (Graham, 1990; Graham & Harris, 2000). As a result, the quality of children's writing may depend to some degree on how efficiently children can perform transcription tasks such as spelling and handwriting or typing (Graham, Berninger, Abbott, Abbott, & Whitaker, 1997). Further evidence for the impact of transcription skills on writing quality can be drawn from intervention studies that have found that handwriting instruction can improve multiple dimensions of students' writing, including quality (Berninger et al., 1997; Graham, Harris, & Fink, 2000).

Another important difference between beginning and advanced writers is the kinds of texts that they produce. Young writers' attention shifts from forming individual letters and spelling words, to constructing phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. As their proficiency develops, the texts become increasingly complex progressing from random word combinations to extended narratives and organized texts (Berninger, Fuller, & Whitaker, 1996; Berninger et al., 2006).

An assessment that elicits single or multiple sentences might be appropriate for students at this developmental level because the expectations for length and thematic complexity are modest. …

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