As part of the writing test that California administered last spring, 4th graders were asked to read a brief passage about frogs and toads and were then given 30 minutes to write about the differences between the two amphibians. The following shows a response that earned a 3 on a 4- point scale, and the reasoning for the score.
This story is about frogs and toads. There are many differences but you can't see them. Most frogs live near water. Most toads can live miles away from water. Frogs have long and strong legs to jump quickly and far. Toads have small legs to hop. It takes a long time to hop place to place. Frog skin is wet and smooth. Toad skin is bumpy and rough. Frogs shed there skin in about every week. A toad sheds its skin in three or four days. Something simalar about toads and frogs is they both eat flyes and have sticky tounges. They both have big heads. A frog has no neck and a toad has no neck. The both have eyes layed on top of there heads.
This student clearly understands the purpose of this task and identifies the similarities and differences between frogs and toads.The student addresses the differences in the first paragraph and the similarities in the second, demonstrating a generally consistent organizational focus.The student focuses on mostly relevant facts and details (although the information about eating flies is not in the original passage)and works to paraphrase the information in the passage.The student uses complete sentences but tends to rely on simple rather than compound or complex sentences. There are some errors in the conventions of English, but they do not interfere with the reader’s understanding.
Source: California Department of Education
A version of this article appeared in the December 12, 2001 edition of Education Week as Writing to the Test