Claim-Evidence-Link Writing Structure
Signature Practice for California Gold Ribbon School 2017 Recognition
Section 1. Description of the Model
Model Program Description. Strong writers articulate their thoughts with more than a summary of the text or writing opinionated arguments. Strong writers state a claim, a thought or argument they are trying to convey to the reader, support it with textual evidence, and further analyze it through a link that further explains the significance of the topic. The teachers at Alliance Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School (Stern MASS) realized that in order for students to produce clear, purposeful writing, they needed opportunities to practice it across content areas and in a variety of assessments, including essays, formative assessments, in-class quick writes, lab reports, unit exams, interim assessments, and state assessments. The Claim-Evidence-Link (CEL) paragraph became adopted because of its easy-to-follow structure and allowed students to focus more on what they were going to write instead of how they were going to write it--thus them becoming more confident writers.
Addressing the Need. Stern MASS became an early adopter of the CCSS in the 2011-12 school year. As school leaders and lead teachers analyzed the standards and reflected on classroom instruction, we realized that classroom practices needed to change in order for students to master CCSS. The California Standards Test (CST) did not assess writing and available data assessing writing implied a change was needed. Early Assessment Program (EAP) 2013 English/Language Arts (ELA) data indicated 69% were not college-ready. Students taking the SAT writing had an average scaled score of 441, which was 47 points lower than the 448 national average.
To begin the transitional shift, ELA and history teachers received professional development (PD) in the alignment between CCSS and previously released California Content Standards through literacy coaches from Alliance College-Ready Public Schools. In 2013-14, ELA teachers began conducting monthly PDs at our site for all teachers to become more familiar with CCSS literacy standards. Through feedback collected at the end of PD, non-ELA teachers indicated they also needed (1) a writing structure that could further support the close reading strategies and (2) training to support struggling readers.
Essential Resources. Resources involved with implementing CEL writing included (1) ELA teachers willing to plan and facilitate PD; (2) teachers willing to participate in the training; (3) buy-in from school leaders regarding the importance of writing; and (4) allocated time within PD to discuss the writing process around prompt creations, rubric calibration, department rubric creation, and analysis of student work. Materials needed included CEL graphic organizers, student samples, and teacher and student sample rubrics.
- Note: Although every teacher received four days of WestEd’s Reading Apprenticeship (RA) training and release time during the school day (~$40,000), it is not necessary to implement the program.
Teacher and Administrator Goals. To implement this practice, there were three main goals.
- Goal 1: Provide a common writing structure within all classes that allows students to focus more on “what” they are writing instead of “how” they are writing it.
- Anticipated outcome: Teachers and administrators would receive PD about a common writing structure so that students would have common language regardless of grade level or content area.
- Goal 2: Have a strong baseline CAASPP SmarterBalanced (SBAC) percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards.
- Anticipated outcome: 50% of tested students would score in CAASPP ELA meets/exceeds achievement levels.
- Goal 3: Move away from CST-style assessments to short answer or essay responses in formative and summative assessments.
- Anticipated outcome: Teachers would incorporate more writing into their instruction and assessments.
Students, Parents, and Community Goals. There was one main goal for students and one goal for parents and community members when shifting instructional practice to CEL paragraphs.
- Goal 1: Students would be able to incorporate textual evidence and analysis into their writing.
- Anticipated outcome: Students would do more than summarizing the text or write opinionated reflections in their writing. They would analyze texts using CEL paragraphs automatically regardless of the class being ELA or non-ELA.
- Goal 2: Parents and the community would see their students writing more frequently for homework.
- Anticipated outcome: Parents would notice on progress reports and report cards that grades for the writing standards were higher than previous school years.
Benefiting All Students. The CEL writing structure positively affects all students because the paragraph format can be used to articulate thoughts through written or verbal responses. Our school’s goals as outlined in our charter are that 100% of students will matriculate to higher education and 100% of students will take at least two Advanced Placement (AP) courses with corresponding AP exams by the end of senior year. We are trying to close the achievement gap by creating multiple opportunities for students to prepare for post-secondary including open access to AP courses that have been historically restricted to the top 10% of grade level cohorts. In addition, Stern MASS does not have a designed middle school feeder pattern since current students attend one of 160 local public, private, and charter middle schools. The CEL structure allows all students to have a common foundation for success.
Benefiting Unique Student Populations. The CEL writing structure benefits all subgroups because it creates a formula that is easy to follow. English Learners and students with learning disabilities are able to use graphic organizers to later support their paragraph structure. The common structure also helps Resource Specialist Teachers (RSTs) know writing expectations for student caseloads since they provide accommodated supports and loop up with students annually. A common writing structure minimizes the need for multiple writing strategies that RSTs have to accommodate to support students.
Social-emotional and Behavioral Needs. This structure allows all students to be successful with their writing. Students with anxiety, have low self-esteem, have difficulty getting started in the writing process, or “hate writing” have an outline they can follow.
LCAP. CEL writing has been integrated within the LCAP since it became required for the 2014-15 school year. The writing practice supported State Priority 4 of increasing pupil achievement. In 2014-15, the goal was to increase student proficiency/performance on CAASPP ELA with that school year setting the baseline target and a 3% annual school-wide increase. For the 2015-16 school year, the goal continued to be the same and the action step was refined to “seek support of [a] reading specialist to provide literacy and writing strategies targeted towards English Learners and struggling readers.” With the support of WestEd, teachers were trained in RA reading strategies that could be incorporated within all disciplines. For the 2016-17 LCAP, writing became infused within Goal 3: Increase student achievement through content area curriculum and instructional supports. The action step was to “provide professional development to increase classroom instruction and assessments aligned to content standards and assessments.”
Chronic Absenteeism and Suspensions. Stern MASS has been fortunate not to have more than three students who have been chronically absent and has a low suspension rate of approximately 2%. With the CEL writing structure, all students can be successful and complete writing assignments despite being absent from school.
Section 2: Implementation and Monitoring of the Model
Stakeholder Engagement. Success for the writing structure was based on buy-in from teachers because of our school-wide emphasis that all students were going to college--not just those enrolled in AP classes. Teachers wanted to learn from their colleagues about how writing could be strengthened and turned to their ELA colleagues for guidance. Teachers agreed that PD time allocated to writing strategies would be a good use of weekly PDs.
Teachers also received feedback from students and alumni sharing that teachers sometimes had different terms for the same writing strategy and often time they had difficulty forming connections that the processes were the same. Some ELA teachers referred to the paragraphs as CEL while others referred to it as Thesis-Purpose-Summary (TPS). Science teachers used Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER). History teachers did not have a formal writing structure.
Parents were engaged and informed of the writing emphasis multiple times a year including Parent Orientation, Community Town Halls, School Coordinating Council Meetings, and parent workshops. These opportunities allowed the school to listen to their concerns and how they would like more targeted instruction to support their child’s path towards college.
Methods to Communicate Practice. Various opportunities were available for feedback. Teachers were able to use PD surveys, discussions with the principal, placement on the PD agenda for future PDs, and discussions with department chairs and instructional coaches. Parents also had opportunities to be introduced and learn more about the writing structure, including annual Meet Your Teacher Night, Back to School Night, Open House, AP Course Expectations, Stern MASS 101, Community Town Halls, and School Coordinating Council Meetings. The community is informed of the meetings and its topics on the school website, fliers mailed home with progress reports every five weeks, and automated phone calls to
parents about upcoming parent workshops.
Monitoring Parents. With the assistance of the Parent Engagement Specialist, Stern MASS was able to evaluate the practice effectiveness with parents and community through informal feedback conversations after parent workshops. Parents also completed end of year surveys to gather feedback towards workshop topics to continue annually; suggestions for future topics; and asking for volunteers who would like to facilitate, present with, or co-lead future workshops. Lastly, parents completed an annual School Satisfaction Survey. One of the survey questions asked whether “this school provides regular opportunities for me to learn to help my child succeed in school” and parents responded with an average score of 3.50 on a Likert scale of 1-4 with 4 being “strongly agree” over the past three school years.
Capacity Building through Professional Learning. ELA teachers spent Spring14 aligning their own writing expectations and terminology and adopted the CEL paragraph structure to begin in Fall 2014. During that same semester, ELA teachers provided PD throughout the school year to train teacher and administrator colleagues about the CEL structure, analyze student work, calibrate on rubric scoring, and help develop a CEL rubric with each content area. In 2015-16, all teachers, including elective and PE teachers, received RA training to further strengthen teachers’ skills to support struggling readers access the text to identify
“golden line” evidence, “think alouds” to capture their analysis as they read, frame their thoughts through metacognitive bookmarks with question stems and sentence starters, and support their claims and links within small group and whole class discussions. Having a common list of reading strategies reinforced shared terminology and scaffolds to strengthen student writing.
Monitoring Instructional Learning Activities. To support teachers with the writing process, two teachers served as part-time instructional coaches. They worked individually with teachers wanting to incorporate CEL paragraphs into their instruction through planning conferences, classroom observations, and post-observation conferences. Administrators walked classrooms to observe the writing process and provided feedback to teachers to reinforce and strengthen their practices. Throughout the implementation, ELA teachers provided ongoing PD addressing topics such as (1) grade level writing calibration using rubrics and anchor papers, (2) examining student writing using their own writing assignment and corresponding rubric and then adjusting their rubric to align it more towards CCSS, and (3) creating a department writing
rubric and incorporating common, department-wide assignments or strategies. PD topics were adjusted based on previous surveyed feedback and classroom observations. In addition, questions involving short answer responses have been incorporated into quarterly interim assessments for ELA, math, and science in preparation for the CAASPP SBAC assessment. Teachers analyzed the data to synthesize increased student writing ability. Continued classroom observations and feedback conversations also confirmed an increased amount of student writing.
Section 3: Results of the Model/Pupil Outcomes
Monitoring and Assessment Results. Integrating common writing strategies across the curriculum has allowed students to understand the importance of writing in all disciplines. Goals 1 and 3 were measured through teachers, students, and parents being able to monitor student writing progress through student grades and by standards-based progress reports with writing scores of applicable standards. CAASPP SBAC results implied that the school-wide focus and implementation of common writing structures since the 2014-15 school year positively affected student achievement. With opportunities for students to practice their writing in multiple classes, students achievement surpassed anticipated baseline targets stated in goal 2 of 50% of students overall demonstrating they met/exceeded standards and the next cohort surpassed projected growth targets on the second CAASPP administration.
Baseline CAASPP ELA 2015 data implied 71% of students overall met/exceeded the standards, 34% above standard in writing, and 43% above standard in research/inquiry. This was above the state grade 11 results in all categories with 56%, 31%, and 33%, respectively. With the second year of CAASPP ELA results in 2016, overall student achievement increased by 8% to 79% of students met/exceeded standards, increased by 7% to 41% above standard in writing, and increased by 22% to 65% above standard in research/inquiry. The data was once again above the state grade 11 results of 59%, 35%, and 34%, respectively.
Non-Targeted Student Groups. The population of English Learners and Students with Disabilities who tested in the grade 11 CAASPP administration was less than 10 students so data was not released due to student privacy. However, teacher observations and internal analysis of writing assessments indicated students’ ability to state a claim, support it with textual evidence, and then create links to further analyze its significance by relating it to other sections of the text or forming connections to previous class discussions, the historical time period, recent phenomena, or other content disciplines.
Continued Program Improvement. With the writing success demonstrated in CAASPP ELA performance, we learned that success comes from a unified collaboration to best impact student achievement. We are continuing with the CEL writing structure in all classes and have been training new teachers to implement it through department meetings and classroom support with our instructional coaches. Teachers who have been implementing CEL paragraphs since our initial implementation have expanded the structure to be CELEL paragraphs so students support their claims with multiple evidence.