Each spring, public school students in grade seven who participate in the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program complete a writing task as part of the California English-Language Arts Standards Test (CST in English-language arts). This writing task is called the California Writing Standards Test or the CST in writing.
Questions and Answers About the CST in Writing
Who takes the CST in writing?
All students in grade seven who take the multiple-choice part of the CST in English-language arts also write one essay in response to a writing task (prompt).
What type of essay are students required to write?
The type of essay that will be required for the CST in writing is not announced in advance; therefore, students must be prepared to write to all the following possible types of essays:
Students in grade seven may be asked to write a fictional narrative (story), a response to literature, a persuasive letter or essay, or a summary of a reading passage.
Where can parents and guardians see sample writing tasks?
Each RSCS seventh grade students will receive a student guide with their site information letter in the beginning of February.
More information for writing tasks used in previous STAR Program administrations have also been released for public viewing. These tasks are available on the California Department of Education (CDE) Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/resources.asp. The released tasks include samples of student essays for each possible score point. All writing tasks are based on state writing strategies, writing applications, and written conventions standards that are part of the English-language arts content standards.
How much time are students given to write the essay?
The CST in writing is not timed. Students are given approximately 75 minutes to read the information, plan their essays, and complete one draft of the essay. Students who are actively working on their essays at the end of the allotted time must be allowed more time to complete the essay. Readers who score the essays take into account that each essay is a first draft.
How are the student essays scored?
Experienced readers are trained to use specific guidelines (rubrics) to score the student essays. These rubrics are included in teacher guides found at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/resources.asp.
What are the key traits readers look for to determine the score?
Readers carefully read each essay to determine the level of writing skills the student has shown. For example, readers examine essays to see if ideas are thoroughly developed and supported with appropriate details. Readers also evaluate the essay for organization, word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and mechanics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, capitalization).
What is the “passing” score for the CST in writing?
There is no “passing” score for the CST in writing. The points assigned to the essay are combined with the number of multiple-choice questions answered correctly to produce the overall score and performance level for the CST in English-language arts. The score on the writing task is also converted to a percent correct, which is reported under the Writing Applications content area on back of the STAR Student Report.
Helping Your Students Improve Their Writing
The following are some suggested ways you can help students improve their writing skills:
1. Talk with teachers and administrators about the school’s writing program and the expectations for students’ writing performance. When you share a common understanding of the writing skills your students are being taught at school, you can provide more effective support at home.
2. Encourage your students to write lists, notes, thank-you notes, requests, journals, recipes, book reports, short stories, e-mails, and other types of writing. As with any skill, writing improves the more it is practiced.
3. For writing assignments, talk with your students about what they are being asked to do and help them list the points to be covered. As your students complete the assignment, point out parts that are written well and ask questions about parts that are not clear. Help your students focus on developing their ideas in their writing before correcting the mechanics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, capitalization).
4. Provide your students with the things they need to write. In addition to paper, pencils, and other writing tools, make sure your students have a dictionary and thesaurus, a quiet place to write, and a folder or notebook to keep their ideas, drafts, and other pieces of writing they have done.
How to find out more…
If you have additional questions about your school’s writing program, please direct them to your Education Specialist (ES), English teacher or Site Director. You also will find answers to your questions about the CST in writing or any tests in the STAR Program on the CDE Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/resources.asp.