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Volume 35, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0034-527X
  • E-ISSN: 1943-2348


This semester-long qualitative study explores the effects of a high-stakes, direct writing test on 3 teachers and their students in 1 rural Maryland high school. Out of the 23 students in both classes, 14 students had been identified for special education services for physical or learning problems; all had either failed the test once or had not yet taken it. The researchers conducted interviews with teachers and students, observed their classrooms, and collected samples of student writing and other artifacts to address 3 questions: (a) How did the test influence teacher beliefs about writing instruction? (b) How did these teachers adapt their instruction to respond to the demands of the test? (c) How did students who had not passed the test respond to their writing instruction and how did preparation for the test affect their attitudes/beliefs about writing? Our findings suggest that an emphasis on test preparation diminished the likelihood of the teachers’ engaging in reflective practice that is sensitive to the needs of individual students, that the high-stakes assessment process discounted the validity of locally developed standards for assessing writing, and that the criteria for passing the test failed to take into consideration the rich variety of American culture and the complexity of literacy learning.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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