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Writing Prompt Policy


The purpose of the standards-based benchmark essays is for ESs and Parents to monitor and access their students’ writing to facilitate their choice of effective curriculum and instruction throughout the school year.


Schoolwide Goals:

Connecting Waters Charter Schools (CWCS) have three WASC/LCAP schoolwide goals: To increase the percentage of students on-track to graduate college and career ready; to close the achievement gap in English Language Arts and Math; and to increase the percentage of EL students who achieve proficiency in English Language Arts and Math. Writing proficiency is a key indicator to success in all the goals. Effective writing achievement is also part of CWCS Expected School wide Learning Results (ESLRs) (also known as Suggested Learning Outcomes (SLOs). CWCS believes that with relevant curriculum and instructional support ESs and parents will see improved writing scores on state assessments.


Benchmark “Calibrated” Assessments (Grades 3-12):

Each year, four (4) benchmark essays are required for grades K-12. Students in grades 3-12 are highly encouraged to complete two (2) of their benchmark essays using My Access. Essay scores in My Access are calibrated using specific rubric criteria that improve the reliability of the scores and support the assessments of students’ needs and strengths. The scores are applied in five domains: focus and meaning, content and development, organization, language use, voice, style, and grammar and mechanics. Calibrated scores also contribute important data to aid administrative analysis of schoolwide writing success to effectively influence decisions about instructional support programs. The use of My Access gives students instant, non-bias feedback on their writing in the five domains whereas handwritten essays are difficult to collect and analyze. Scoring often varies from teacher to teacher and does not provide accurate schoolwide data which is needed to meet our goals.

The My Access benchmark essay prompts are pre-designated by administration to maintain consistent scoring of student writing and will be available in September (Semester 1) and in January (Semester 2).


My Access benchmark essays are encouraged to be used as portfolio samples.

Each student has an active account and can respond to a prompt already assigned according to grade level. Students have a two-week window in September and January to complete the initial benchmark essays. Guidelines for logging into My Access and printing essays are available on the staff website.


Additional Benchmark samples:

The remaining two benchmark essays require students to complete an essay using the entire writing process and are due in November and February. These benchmark essays are meant to assess students’ understanding and completion of the writing process and do not need to be completed in My Access. Students have an alternative option to write the second benchmark essay each semester using their own Word Processing program or as a hand-written submission if desired. They can use relevant research, literature, essays, poems, and texts from which they have been studying during the school year. Outlines, rough drafts, and revisions are required as they are part of the writing process. Consequently, at the end of each semester, the second benchmark essay provides an opportunity for parents and ESs to guide and support learning and illustrates for them their student’s understanding and growth when writing essays.

ESs and parents will evaluate these benchmark essays using posted rubrics. The second benchmark essays are meant to be instructional and will not be included in the portfolios.


Instructional Support:

Ideally, by using My Access scores to identify strengths and needs, and with instructional guidance and support writing subsequent assignments throughout the school year, students will learn to compose focused, organized, cohesive essays including narrative, informational/expository, and persuasive/argumentative genres in a variety of challenging, relevant, and engaging writing assignments. Additional writing curriculum and instructional support should be provided to students who need resources.


K-2 Student Requirements: Students in grades K-2 will hand write or type two benchmark essays each semester using blind prompts currently posted on the CWCS website. ESs will collect one essay per semester for the portfolios.


Writing prompts for grades K-2