Mississippi district addresses new writing expectations and sees improvement in both writing skills and instruction
Improving the writing skills of all 6,500 students emerged as a top priority for the administrators of Mississippi’s Gulfport School District beginning in fall 2014. “We needed a resource that addressed the rigorous writing requirements of the Common Core, as well as one that would allow educators to teach writing in a systematic way,” says Patty Cooper, ELA Curriculum Specialist for Gulfport.
The resource that fit those requirements was Ready Writing by Curriculum Associates. Having already implemented Ready Reading in Gulfport, Cooper knew the complementary Writing program would have the gradual-release model she wanted. “In Ready Writing, students study a mentor task, unpack the assignment, and are lead step-by-step through a writing task that is dependent on the text.”
Ready Writing is a rigorous program that includes instructional books for students and professional development resources for teachers delivered at point of use. It was piloted at Pass Road Elementary School with third, fourth and fifth graders from December 2014 until the end of the school year.
Preparation for the pilot consisted of educating teachers on how to integrate Ready Writing with Ready Reading, which share a common theme and sometimes source texts. In addition, many Writing lessons build on the standards taught in Ready Reading. (*Editor’s note: Ready Writing may also be used as a stand-alone.) “We want all of our students to be able to read about a text, talk about a text, and write about a text,” says Cooper. “Before Ready Writing, students were writing, but were not being taught systematically to write well.”
“Guiding teachers through the implementation has been crucial to the success of the program,” says Dr. Carla Evers, Director of Instructional Programs. “It would be a misstep for any district to implement Ready Writing, or any new writing program, without high-quality, ongoing professional learning. It could lead to fidelity issues with implementation, such as cherry-picking program components.”
The teacher resources of Ready Writing include built-in assignments to save time as well as exemplar student papers to which teachers can compare their students’ work. “The program is designed to strengthen the learner while also strengthening the teacher,” says Evers.
Since using Ready Writing, students’ ability and confidence in writing have soared. “Organization skills have improved,” says Cooper. “At the beginning of the year, students’ writing was superficial, and by the end of the year, it showed increased development. They learned how to weave text-based evidence into their assignments.”
Students have grown eager for feedback on their writing and have expressed the desire to write more, because they saw an authentic purpose for writing. “Historically, writing has not commonly been a favorite subject,” Cooper says. “But as they get better at it, their enthusiasm increases.”
When the pilot teachers were asked if they thought the program was beneficial, all said yes. As a result, all students in grades 2 through 5 will be using Ready Writing at Gulfport’s seven elementary schools this year. “We did not mandate that any school use this program,” says Evers. “Hearing about the success at Pass Road sparked that much interest among teachers and administrators.”
Ready Writing also aligns with the district’s mission to produce students who are ready for life after high school. “We want our students to become college- and career-ready,” says Evers. “Being able to write well is one of the best skills we can provide for our students, and implementing Ready Writing is a step in moving toward that mission.”
For more information, visit www.curriculumassociates.com/readywriting