Download Full Text (3.2 MB)


Our assignment in this chapter is to discuss best practices in writing assessment, a task that poses a twofold challenge for teachers-first, the task of providing authentic opportunities for students to acquire skill in writing while covering an ever-increasing array of other curriculum demands; second, the overriding pressures to ensure that students perform well on the standardized tests that have become the primary accountability index. As we complete this chapter, few state testing systems rely to any significant degree on performance tests for measuring student achievement. Multiple-choice tests dominate, and on-demand writing tests (including the SAT) generally contravene the counsel provided by the College Board. Our purpose is to survey assessment concepts and techniques supported by research and practical experience and to suggest ways to fit these ideas into the realities of policies that, although well intended, often conflict with best practices. The advice from the College Board illustrates this point; it captures many facets of best practices, but the real SAT assessment permits none of these elements. We have limited space for presenting how-to details, but we will provide selected references to help apply the ideas. The chapter is organized around three topics. First, we describe the concept of embedded classroom writing assessments designed to inform instruction and provide evidence about learning. The bottom line here is the recommendation that writing tasks (instruction and assessment) be designed to support the learning of significant academic topics (Urquhart & Mclver, 2005). Next, we present several contrasts that emerge from this perspective: process versus product, formative versus summative evaluation, and assessment versus testing. Finally, we review a set of building blocks that is essential to all writing assessments, especially those that are classroom-based: the prompt, the procedures, and the rubrics. As you have probably realized from the scenarios and the discussion thus far, our focus will be on composing more than mechanics. Attention to spelling and grammar is eventually important, but it helps if the writer has something to say and has learned how to organize his or her ideas.



Publication Date



Guilford Press


New York, NY


Writing Assessment, Standardized Tests, Performance Tests for Measuring Student Achievement, Learning


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research


In S. Graham, C. MacArthur, and J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best Practices in Writing Instruction (2nd Edition). Dr. Miller's chapter begins on page 351.

Peer Reviewed



Guilford Press

Best Practices in Writing Assessment for Instruction



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.