P.O. BOX 2120



September 29, 2006



Division Superintendents



Billy K. Cannaday, Jr.

Superintendent of Public Instruction



Participation in Field Testing of Writing Prompts for Standards of Learning Grade 8 Writing Assessment



The Division of Assessment and Reporting and Pearson Educational Measurement will conduct a field test of grade 8 writing prompts during the period of February 5-9, 2007. Field testing of potential writing prompts is crucial in identifying appropriate prompts for Virginia students. This field test has been scheduled during February so that schools may use it as an opportunity for students to practice prior to the spring grade 8 writing test.


To evaluate approximately 30 writing prompts, a sample of 25,000 eighth-grade students from across Virginia is needed. Each student will be asked to write an essay in response to a prompt. The administration of the writing prompt typically requires one or two class periods. Unlike previous writing field tests, this field test will be available in both online and paper modes.


Students in your division are invited to participate in the field testing. From the list of volunteer divisions, a sample that is representative of the state in terms of demographic factors such as geography, race/ethnicity, and school and division sizes will be selected. Please note the following:


         To meet the requirements of the state sampling plan, school divisions electing to participate may be allocated a maximum number of students for testing.

         Division directors of testing or their designees have the discretion of selecting the day(s) from February 5-9, 2007, to administer the grade 8 writing field test. There will be no make-up testing for this field test administration.

         Administration manuals will be provided to division directors of testing, school test coordinators, and examiners.

         For this test, students are allowed to use dictionaries (without a thesaurus) for spelling and scratch paper for planning. The school will supply dictionaries and scratch paper.

         As with all other Standards of Learning Assessments, students may take as much time as needed to complete this test. Students must complete their responses to the prompt by the end of the school day.

         Student scores will not be provided, and no school reports will be produced.

School divisions interested in participating must complete a Request to Participate in Field Testing of Writing Prompts for the Standards of Learning Grade 8 Writing Assessment Internet survey. On October 13, 2006, each division director of testing will receive an e-mail containing an Internet address that will provide access to the survey. School divisions that indicate interest in participating in the field test will be asked to provide preliminary information for specific schools such as testing dates, testing mode (online or paper/pencil), and the number of students per school. Responses to the survey are due by October 30, 2006.


Any questions regarding the Internet survey or the writing prompt field testing should be directed to Pearson Educational Measurement at

or the Division of Assessment and Reporting at or by phone at (804) 225-2102.