Writing by Rote

By Bryan Toporek — July 22, 2009 1 min read
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In Orlando, 49 schools in 12 school districts find themselves with some explaining to do, as elementary students continued to use memorized phrases and sentences on state-administered writing exams, despite the best efforts from the Florida Department of Education.

The state Department of Education discovered a great deal of “template writing” while reading through the state-administered tests to Floridian students in grades 4, 8 and 10. Common examples from the 4th grade essays include, “Poof! Now I’m in dragon land,” “one quintessential, supersonic day,” and “a kaleidoscope of colors encircled me.”

Only four schools were flagged last year, marking an alarming rise this year in the use of memorized phrases. The jump could be due to the Department of Education urging scorers to be on the lookout for certain phrases.

The department sent out a letter last Wednesday from Victoria Ash, chief of the department’s Bureau of K-12 Assessment, informing districts that they would be “beginning policy discussions ... to determine appropriate consequences when template writing is identified during scoring.”

The department did spare the kids, however, claiming that rote memorization was not technically cheating and that they would grade the kids’ essays based on merit.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.