In a two-year evaluation of the program, which was incorporated in several urban middle schools, ALTA Solutions Group found that students in schools with “Writing Matters” curriculums demonstrated greater levels of improvement in writing skills than students at schools without the program in place. On average, the study found that in schools with the curriculum, 58.2 percent of students showed gains in writing while fewer than 23 percent of students in reference schools demonstrated writing improvement.
The pilot program involved more than 1,000 6th-graders and 22 teachers, who were assisted by several Teaching Matters coaches. For the study, 10 middle schools were evaluated — six with the curriculum in place, and four schools without the program used for outcome comparisons.
On average, the students in the Writing Matters curriculum averaged gains of four percentage points in writing skills, while average writing scores in two of the reference schools decreased. Schoolwide argument writing scores increased by 4.5 percent in schools with the Writing Matters program, while overall gains in schools without the program were limited to an average of less than 1 percent.
The Writing Matters program involves weekly classroom instruction, emphasizing collaborative goal settings, co-teaching, peer observation and student analysis anchored around Looking at Student Work (LASW) protocols. Generally, the program involves four cycles of eight-week, “collaborative inquiry”-centered activities, usually with teams of up to five educators per school.
“In addition to benefiting students, Writing Matters with coaching supports teachers in gaining new skills that they can apply immediately to tangibly assist struggling students,” the report concludes. “Data collected during the pilot study suggest that Writing Matters with intensive onsite coaching supports statistically significant and larger student writing performance gains than other methods of writing instruction taking place in 6th grades of broadly similar New York schools.”