The University of Iowa

Comparing Approaches to Scoring Student Writing

Teen boy writing response on laptop


Council Bluffs Community School District


Fall 2020–Spring 2021

Number of Schools Participating


Number of Students Participating


Grades Involved

Grade 7–Grade 11


The Iowa Reading Research Center is partnering with the Council Bluffs Community School District to determine which approach to scoring students’ writing best predicts Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) performance. The three approaches being studied are:

  • district teachers who know the students
  • an electronic system
  • independent scorers at the Iowa Reading Research Center

The district is using a computer-based writing practice program that provides more opportunities for student practice. The program uses an electronic scoring system with its own criteria. In addition, the IRRC worked with literacy leaders in Council Bluffs to develop a rubric aligned to ISASP that also would include language from the practice program criteria. Teachers and the IRRC scorers will use the rubric to evaluate the same writing responses that were scored by the electronic system. In December 2020, students in Grades 7–11 wrote responses to argumentative or informational writing prompts related to curriculum they are studying in their English language arts classes. In May 2021, students will write responses to a different set of prompts. Responses in both testing waves will be scored using the three approaches.

After the students take the ISASP in June 2021, the IRRC team will analyze the data to determine which scoring approach had the strongest relationship to students’ performance on the standards-based assessment.

Information on the electronic scoring system’s prediction of ISASP performance will be used to evaluate use of the writing practice program. The comparison of the three scoring approaches could inform how other districts evaluate students’ writing development and preparedness for standards-based assessments.