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Writing Prompt Policy

Revised by Teresa Matranga 


The purpose of standards-based benchmark essays is for ESs and Parents to evaluate their students’ writing and to support their instruction throughout the school year.


Schoolwide Goals:

The 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. 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 4-12):

Students in grades 4-12 are required to complete two benchmark essays using My Access in September and January. Because My Access is instructional, students are highly encouraged to respond to two prompts, revising and editing, for instruction and practice before responding to the required third prompt that is the actual benchmark essay prompt. The instructional practice prompts are highly recommended for students to complete for increased student success on the writing benchmarks.  Students will follow this process in September and January to submit their required writing benchmarks.

Two more prompts in November and two more prompts in March are available in My Access for additional writing instruction and support. Students are highly encouraged to complete these instructional prompts in My Access for maximum support.  The two essays completed in My Access during November and March require students to use outlines, write rough drafts, and make revisions just as the September and January benchmark essays do, as they are part of the writing process. They will provide additional scaffolded instruction in different genres. It is our goal that with more scaffolded writing instruction throughout the school year we will see an improvement in our students’ writing skills.  

My Access scores are applied in five domains: focus and purpose, content and development, organization, language use, and grammar and mechanics. Calibrated scores contribute important data to aid administrative analysis of schoolwide writing to help influence decisions about instructional support programs. The use of My Access gives students instant, non-bias feedback on their writing whereas handwritten essays are difficult to collect and analyze. Scoring often varies from teacher to teacher and does not provide accurate schoolwide data needed to meet our goals.

 K-3 Student Requirements: Students in grades K-3 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.

Rubrics for scoring K-3 essays can be found at,

Writing prompts for grades K-3


Instructional Support:

Ideally, using My Access instructional guidance and support when writing benchmark essays, and hopefully other assignments using My Access, throughout the school year students will learn to compose focused, organized, and cohesive essays in the narrative, informational/expository, persuasive/argumentative, and literary genres.