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PSAE Writing Performance Definitions


(This subject was assessed 2001 through 2004. Due to a July 2004 change in state law, the 2005 and 2006 PSAE assessed reading, mathematics, and science only. Due to a 2005 change in state law, writing was assessed beginning in 2007 using a different PSAE test than was given 2001 through 2004. These writing performance definitions apply to the PSAE writing test beginning in 2007.)

Introduction

The Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), which was administered to Illinois grade 11 public school students for the first time in spring 2001, assesses the high school benchmarks defined by the Illinois Learning Standards. Student performance on the PSAE is evaluated relative to four levels: Exceeds Standards, Meets Standards, Below Standards, and Academic Warning.

The work of students at each performance level is summarized in the following profiles:

Examples are provided only as guidance and are not meant to be exhaustive.

The PSAE writing test consists of two components:

These components assess the Illinois Learning Standards for writing contained in State Goal 3: The ACT English component uses a multiple-choice format in which students are expected to: The writing assignment requires students to write one persuasive essay in which they take a position on a given issue. The essay will be evaluated on the evidence it gives of the student's ability to:

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Exceeds Standards:

Student work at the Exceeds Standards level demonstrates advanced knowledge and skills in writing. Students creatively apply knowledge and skills to solve problems and evaluate the results that contribute to the development of focus, support, and organization in writing and editing.

Focus/Topic Development
Students whose performance exceeds the Standards demonstrate advanced knowledge of topic development by analyzing the influence sentences have in effectively developing, supporting, and maintaining the focus of the text or in reaching a more difficult purpose. They determine if the result of adding new sentences will accomplish a specific purpose, such as providing explanations or descriptions, and they determine when it is necessary to delete unrelated material that interferes with the focus of the text. Students apply knowledge of focus and purpose to a variety of texts of varying degrees of complexity. Students evaluate writing to determine if the sentences they use effectively maintain the focus and logic of the writing and successfully carry out its desired purpose and goal. They produce writing that displays sophistication in developing and maintaining focus and logic throughout through use of literary elements such as anecdotes.

Organization/Coherence
Students whose performance exceeds the Standards apply a complete understanding of how effective use of transitions influences organization and coherence of the text. For example, they include transitions that successfully maintain the logic of the text and improve sentence fluency. They demonstrate a clear understanding of the writing task and successfully employ strategies, such as repeating words, phrases, or supplying transitions, to develop and support their ideas in a sophisticated way that creates strong overall coherence and cohesion. They apply these skills to develop writing that effectively incorporates strategies, such as examples, concrete details, facts, summaries, or quotations, to develop introductions, succeeding paragraphs, and closings that unify the writing.

Support/Word Choice/Sentence Structure
Students whose performance exceeds the Standards generate documents that display extensive depth of detail, enhanced word choice, and varied sentence structure. They produce writing that demonstrates sophisticated use of analytical and evaluative thinking by successfully including material that is consistent in subject and voice. They produce documents that exhibit a comprehensive understanding of the successful use of sophisticated writing techniques, such as explanations and evidence, that are appropriate to purpose and audience, and apply these techniques to develop and maintain clarity of focus, logic, and organization. They successfully use techniques, such as varying sentence structure, for stylistic effect.

Conventions/Usage/Punctuation
Students whose performance exceeds the Standards produce and edit a variety of texts in a way that reflects comprehensive knowledge of sentence structure, usage, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. For example, they apply their knowledge of punctuation to maintain the flow of sentences in the text. They apply basic rules of standard English in sophisticated ways to edit documents for clarity, subject-verb agreement, adverb and adjective agreement, and verb tense. They creatively apply these elements to create stylistic effect and organizational power in their writing.

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Meets Standards:

Student work at the Meets Standards level demonstrates proficient knowledge and skills in writing. Students effectively apply knowledge and skills that contribute to the development of focus, support, and organization in writing and editing.

Focus/Topic Development
Students who meet the Standards demonstrate firm knowledge of topic development by including sentences that appropriately develop and support focus of the text, such as expressing meaning through connotation. They apply their knowledge of focus by using sentences that support and maintain a general goal in the text. They avoid using sentences or phrases that interfere with the clarity, development, or unity of the writing. These students produce documents that contain an adequate quality and quantity of support of the topic. They apply knowledge of focus to a variety of texts that are both familiar and unfamiliar in structure and that use more challenging vocabulary. They produce texts that maintain clear logic throughout.

Organization/Coherence
Students who meet the Standards proficiently apply knowledge of effective transitioning between sentences and paragraphs to produce cohesion and coherence. For example, they use key words, repeated pronouns, or transitions to sufficiently build coherence and cohesion. They demonstrate an understanding of the writing task and appropriately use a variety of strategies, such as repeating words and phrases to provide appropriate support and develop coherence and cohesion. They produce introductions that set the tone of the writing and develop closings that bring it to a logical conclusion. They provide closings that contribute to the opening and the main points.

Support/Word Choice/Sentence Structure
Students who meet the Standards use specific details, varied sentence structure, or word choice that is consistent with the tone and purpose of the essay. They produce documents that exhibit a proficient understanding of a range of writing techniques appropriate to purpose and audience, with clarity of focus, logic, and organization. They use compound or complex sentences to reorganize the sentences in a variety of texts. They attempt to apply this knowledge to create effect. For example, they use compound or complex sentences for varied sentence structure.

Conventions/Usage/Punctuation
Students who meet the Standards produce and edit work in a way that reflects well-defined knowledge of sentence structure, usage, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. For example, these students apply consistent verb tense between sentences and maintain pronoun agreement in the text. They demonstrate accurate use of standard English to edit a piece of writing for clarity, subject-verb agreement, adverb and adjective agreement, and verb tense. They effectively apply the basic rules of standard English to maintain logic throughout a variety of texts. They demonstrate the ability to present ideas clearly, but they do so with less control than do students at the Exceeds Standards level.

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Below Standards:

Student work at the Below Standards level demonstrates basic knowledge and skills in writing. However, because of gaps in learning, students use knowledge and apply skills that contribute in limited ways to the development of focus, support, and organization in writing and editing.

Focus/Topic Development
Students who are below the Standards demonstrate a basic understanding of topic development by avoiding the use of sentences that clearly interrupt the focus of an essay. They demonstrate logic in ordering sentences in a simple piece of writing. They produce and edit texts that have a clear purpose, simple language, and familiar style and structure. These students demonstrate knowledge of focus in a limited way, such as by determining or maintaining the basic theme or topic of a simple piece of writing or including repetitious statements rather than separate ideas.

Organization/Coherence
Students who are below the Standards apply a basic understanding of the effect transitions have on coherence. They generate paragraphs using simple organizational patterns that may have inappropriate transitions but are coherent. For example, they maintain a simple beginning, middle, and end to the text. They use basic transitions between paragraphs to create coherence. They may use repetitious transitional words within paragraphs. Their writing often lacks cohesion.

Support/Word Choice/Sentence Structure
Students who are below the Standards identify general support and the context of an essay. For example, they produce writing that contains limited detail and elaboration and is often general in nature. They form ideas in a short and direct manner lacking specific details. They revise simple material to make it more readable, select logical conjunctions, and correct noticeable disturbances of sentence fluency and structure. They produce documents that include basic transitions between paragraphs and add transitional markers within the paragraphs of a straightforward essay. They produce writing that exhibits a basic understanding of the use of varied sentence structure to produce cohesion, such as using prepositions to begin a sentence.

Conventions/Usage/Punctuation
Students who are below the Standards demonstrate a general understanding of the basic rules of standard English, such as using commas to separate clauses in a compound sentence, editing a simple piece of writing for clarity, subject-verb agreement, adverb and adjective agreement, and verb tense. They apply basic conventions of language in a simple manner. They produce writing that contains errors in usage, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure, but these errors are not so substantial that meaning is completely obscured. They convey their ideas, but do not successfully apply grammar, usage, or mechanics to maintain complete logic in the text.

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Academic Warning:

Student work at the Academic Warning level demonstrates limited knowledge and skills in writing. Because of major gaps in learning, students use knowledge and apply skills ineffectively in writing and editing.

Focus/Topic Development
Students at the Academic Warning level demonstrate limited understanding of topic development. They add sentences to the writing that results in a drift from the focus or presents unrelated or illogical ideas. They produce and edit short, uncomplicated texts that contain simple vocabulary. They apply knowledge of focus in a simple manner to determine and maintain the basic theme or topic of a straightforward text.

Organization/Coherence
Students at the Academic Warning level demonstrate the ability to apply a limited knowledge of paragraphing, the use of transitions, and the structure of an essay. They organize ideas in simple formats such as lists, outlines, or summaries with limited and ambiguous support. They produce writing that exhibits poor organization or has serious omissions that results in a lack of coherence and cohesion.

Support/Word Choice/Sentence Structure
Students at the Academic Warning level provide support that often includes a list of specifics with little elaboration, or they include additional information that interferes with the focus of the text, or they include support that consists of repetitions or lacks clarity. These students use simple, everyday vocabulary to describe their ideas.

Conventions/Usage/Punctuation
Students at the Academic Warning level demonstrate limited knowledge with regard to usage, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure, but they provide appropriate punctuation in straightforward situations such as use of commas in a series and basic subject-verb agreement in simple sentences. These students may produce insufficient writing to demonstrate their abilities. They demonstrate a limited understanding of basic rules of standard English and use the language only in straightforward situations to edit writing for clarity, subject-verb agreement, adverb and adjective agreement, and verb tense, although they make an attempt to present their ideas. They apply this limited knowledge ineffectively, resulting in confusion, lack of logic in the text, and obscure overall meaning.

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