“Writers in the Schools is a national model for quality arts education with more than a decade of empirical results, helping students improve writing skills, writing self-efficacy, and standardized test scores.” - Dr. Carl Scott, University of St. Thomas
The success of the WITS program is verified by WITS staff as well as an evaluation that has taken place since 1999. WITS staff, writers, and field coordinators conduct formative assessments throughout the school year of each classroom. WITS staff evaluates each project by observing and monitoring writers, surveying teachers and administrators mid-year and at the end of the year, reviewing student portfolios, and collecting journals from writers. A summative evaluation is then provided by an external evaluator. Our program evaluator, Dr. Carl Scott of the University of St. Thomas, evaluates the success of the WITS program using the following measurements.
WITS IMPROVES WRITING SKILLS
WITS compares essays in students’ pre- and post-service surveys to measure their writing skills before and after participating in the program. Responses are rated on a sixpoint scale and the mean of the ratings is used as the final score. Recent evaluations have found that both elementary and middle school students have consistently shown improvement in their writing skills as demonstrated by a change in their writing sample scores from pre- to post-test. Dr. Scott has found that students who complete the WITS program demonstrate improved writing skills.
WITS ENHANCES WRITING SELF-EFFICACY
WITS measures the impact of the program on students’ writing self-efficacy by administering pre- and post-service surveys to a representative group of students. The attitude measures that assess writing self-efficacy and writing apprehension indicate that students in WITS classrooms are more confident and less apprehensive writers. Evaluations have shown that the program has a positive impact on students’ writing self-efficacy, and that the survey scores from 2004 to the present reflect this change in student confidence. Dr. Scott has found that students who complete the WITS program demonstrate increased confidence or pleasure in their writing abilities (self-efficacy).
WITS INCREASES STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
Beginning in 2003, Dr. Scott has collected standardized test scores from a representative group of WITS students and a control group to compare WITS students’ test scores to students who did not participate in our program. While past data was from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), WITS is now analyzing results from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). The control group shares similar demographics to WITS students. Dr. Scott compares the two groups of students and assesses the impact of the WITS program on TAKS test scores. Analyses of the passing rates on the fourth grade TAKS writing tests found that students enrolled in WITS programs in HISD outperformed their non-WITS counterparts. Dr. Scott reported that the repeated advantage supports the claim that the WITS program has significant effects on standardized writing test performance. Dr. Scott has found that students who complete the WITS program demonstrate higher test scores than students who do not participate.
In an effort to understand our impact in interdisciplinary classes, Dr. Scott analyzed non-writing tests to determine whether there is additional learning in other subject matter. WITS students who took part in the Environmental Writing Project showed greater use of sensory language and greater cognitive complexity in their writing from their experience with natural systems. Moreover, they performed better in science on the Stanford test that year and the TAKS science test the following year than students who did not have the opportunity to participate in this project.
WITS IMPROVES CREATIVITY
WITS piloted an assessment of student creativity as part of its 2011-2012 program evaluation. Using pre- and post- essays from a representative group of students, WITS uses a pair of expert raters, who independently scored student essays using a six-point scale. Judges must agree on a high percentage of their judgments to substantiate a claim that the program impacts creativity. Analyses of the data determined that the creativity ratings were reliable and that there was an increase in creativity ratings from pre to post essay for the students. Dr. Scott found that students who complete the WITS program demonstrate enhanced creativity.
Developed by WITS Evaluator, Carl Scott, PhD (c) Writers in the Schools, Houston