Partner School Districts

Council Bluffs Community School District

Marshalltown Community School District


Fall 2019–May 2021 

The goal of the project was to determine which approach to scoring students’ writing best predicts Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) performance. The three approaches studied were:

  • district teachers who know the students
  • an electronic system
  • independent scorers at the Iowa Reading Research Center

The IRRC worked with literacy leaders in both districts to develop rubrics aligned to ISASP that also would include language from the way writing was being taught. Rubrics were specific to grade level and the writing genre required by the prompt (narrative, informational, opinion/argument). Teachers and the IRRC scorers used the rubrics to evaluate the students’ written responses, and those responses were scored by an electronic scoring system. In Marshalltown, the writing prompts administered to the students were developed by the IRRC and reviewed for cultural bias by district personnel. Students responded to three different prompts during the school year—in fall, winter, and spring. The electronic scoring system was freeware capable of assessing over 1,000 indices of textual complexity.

In Council Bluffs, the prompts were generated by a computer-based writing practice program the district was using. Students responded to two different prompts during the school year—December and May. The writing practice program also included an electronic scoring system with criteria similar to those on the rubrics.