Publications & Resources

Writing Whirligigs: The Art and Assessment of Writing in Kentucky State Reform

Oct 1998

Shelby A. Wolf and Monette C. McIver

In 1990, the state of Kentucky created a new school system through KERA (the Kentucky Educational Reform Act). While KERA mandates wide-ranging progressive reform, KIRIS testing (the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System) makes sure teachers get the job done. Though all Kentucky teachers are involved in writing, those at the fourth-, seventh-, and twelfth-grade levels are responsible for three basic student assessments: writing portfolios which contain students’ original writing rather than specific prompts, open response questions in which students read short narrative and/or expository passages and answer related questions, and on demand writing in which students have 90 minutes to plan, prewrite, draft, revise, and edit their response to a specific prompt. Here we follow one exemplary, seventh-grade Kentucky teacher, Mr. Bass, as he teaches the art of writing while simultaneously addressing the demands of the state evaluation. In this brief case study, we discuss the paradox that occurs as Mr. Bass teaches his students to think of writing in terms of language play, prior knowledge, and life connections, but also instructs them in how to pragmatically share their art through “real-world” assessments.

Wolf, S. A., & McIver, M. C. (1998). Writing whirligigs: The art and assessment of writing in Kentucky state reform (CSE Report 496). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).