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Writing evaluation: rater and task effects on the reliability of writing scores for children in Grades 3 and 4

Abstract

We examined how raters and tasks influence measurement error in writing evaluation and how many raters and tasks are needed to reach a desirable level of .90 and .80 reliabilities for children in Grades 3 and 4. A total of 211 children (102 boys) were administered three tasks in narrative and expository genres, respectively, and their written compositions were evaluated in widely used evaluation methods for developing writers: holistic scoring, productivity, and curriculum-based writing scores. Results showed that 54 and 52% of variance in narrative and expository compositions were attributable to true individual differences in writing. Students’ scores varied largely by tasks (30.44 and 28.61% of variance), but not by raters. To reach the reliability of .90, multiple tasks and raters were needed, and for the reliability of .80, a single rater and multiple tasks were needed. These findings offer important implications about reliably evaluating children’s writing skills, given that writing is typically evaluated by a single task and a single rater in classrooms and even in some state accountability systems.

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Notes

  1. Children were given 15 min based on our experiences with elementary grade children. CBM writing assessments (e.g., writing tasks) typically have shorter assessment times (e.g., 3 min). This does not present a validity issue in the present study because the purpose of our study was examining reliability of various evaluation approaches including CBM writing indicators, not a particular CBM writing test (e.g., picture task) per se.

  2. Facets are measurement features or sources of variation such as person, rater, and task.

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Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant No. P50HD052120). The authors wish to thank participating schools, teachers, and students.

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Correspondence to Young-Suk Grace Kim.

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Kim, YS.G., Schatschneider, C., Wanzek, J. et al. Writing evaluation: rater and task effects on the reliability of writing scores for children in Grades 3 and 4. Read Writ 30, 1287–1310 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-017-9724-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-017-9724-6

Keywords

  • Generalizability theory
  • Task effect
  • Rater effect
  • Assessment
  • Writing