In accordance with the 2011 ELA Framework, students in grades 4 will be assessed in one of the following modes: narrative, expository, or opinion. Students in grade 7 will be assessed in one of the following modes: narrative, expository, or argument. For instructional support, consult pages 27-28 of the ELA Framework for grade 4 and pages 54-56 of ELA Framework for grade 7. The scoring guide and rubric will remain the same.
Above is from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's web page on assessable standards for MCAS for this school year. It is also the message delivered as part of the Commissioner's Welcome Letter for this school year. The gist of it is that the expectation is that teachers are using the 2011 ELA/Literacy Framework exclusively. In doing so, they are emphasizing three modes of writing - argument, expository/explanation, and narrative - with students throughout the school year. In the spirit of the standards, each of these writing modes is connected to reading some text, preferably more than one. In the case of classroom instructional activities, the reading should involve opportunities for academic conversations as well. Based on the reading and discourse, students would be prompted to write in one or more of the three modes.
It is not my understanding that the MCAS test itself will look very different from the way it has looked in the past. However, this is a first step toward an assessment that reflects the 2011 standards. I hope that you share my belief in our teachers and their students. That belief is certain that robust instructional practices that provide lots of opportunities for students to write in all three of these modes, will adequately prepare the students to respond proficiently.
As the MCAS years have rolled on, the tendency to narrow the focus and in turn, the curriculum has severely limited students' perspectives with regard to performance and creativity. In addition, some students who do well on the MCAS are so MCAS-focused that they fail to perform well in other assessment situations - the SAT and ACT arenas, for instance.
So, as we start the new school year, we have an exciting opportunity to widen the focus and increase our own as well as our students' engagement with our 21st Century literacy standards. Happy new school year!