Writing samples were collected from all students in grades 2-7 in September, January and May in the first year of school-wide use of EmPOWER. Samples were analyzed for length (number of words written) and overall writing quality (as measured by a 10-trait analytic rubric developed in partnership with school personnel). 95% inter-rater reliability for rubric scores was obtained by two raters.
Statistically significant gains were seen in length between all three assessments (beginning, middle, and end of the year samples), revealing a marked increase in student writing output across all grades. The only exception to this trend was in fifth grade, where large gains were seen between September and January followed by a decrease between January and May. Qualitative analysis revealed that these students initially became quite verbose, but their writing was disjointed and tangential. In the final half of the year, they used fewer words but expressed themselves more concisely and effectively.
Writing quality was captured by totaling the trait scores on the analytic rubric. On average, significant gains were seen in overall writing quality at each grade level, with marked improvement from the beginning to the middle of the year and then steady improvement from the middle to the end of the year.
Overall, marked gains were evident in the amount of written output as well as the quality of student writing in all grade levels.
Changes in teacher self-efficacy for teaching writing were assessed via an anonymous survey. All teachers reported that EmPOWER increased their success with teaching expository writing to a “moderate” or “significant” degree, and all felt they were given adequate training.
Also, faculty indicated that they used EmPOWER and its embedded strategies across the curriculum.
“I’m committed to data-driven curriculum decisions, which is why we measured the impact of this professional development so carefully. I wanted to know what it was doing for my teachers and for our students. We did nothing different this year except adopt EmPOWER, and we saw gains in writing that we’ve never had before. As an administrator, when I see the same trend in outcomes across every teacher and grade level, I know we’re onto something that is having a real impact.” – Head of School, The Summit School.