Commonwealth of Virginia

Standards of Learning Assessment Program

Blueprints for Grade Eight

English: Writing

©1997 by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education, James Monroe Building,

101 N. 14th Street, Richmond, Virginia, 23219. All rights reserved. Except as permitted by law, this material may not be reproduced or used in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner. Please contact the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education at (804) 225-2102, Division of Assessment and Reporting, to request written permission.

Standards of Learning (SOL) Test Blueprint

Introduction

What is a test blueprint?

A test blueprint is a guide for test construction and use. The Standards of Learning (SOL) test blueprints serve a number of purposes. One, they serve as a guide to test developers as they write test questions and construct the SOL tests. Two, they serve as a guide to educators, parents and students in that they show (a) the SOLs covered by the test and which, if any, have been excluded; (b) which SOLs are assigned to each reporting category; (c) the number of test items in each reporting category and on the total test; (d) general information about how the test questions were constructed; and (e) the materials that students are allowed to use while taking the test.

How is the test blueprint organized?

There is a blueprint for each test (e.g., grade 3 English, grade 5 mathematics, grade 8 science, U.S. History). Each blueprint contains the following information:

1. Test Development Guidelines: guidelines used by Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement and the members of the Content Review Committees in developing the SOL tests. This section contains three parts:

A. General Considerations — lists general considerations that were used in developing the test as well as considerations specific to a particular content area.

B. Item Format — lists information on how items for the test are constructed.

C. Ancillary Materials — lists any materials (e.g., calculators, rulers, protractors, compasses, dictionaries) that students are allowed to use while taking each test.

2. Blueprint Summary Table: a summary of the blueprint which displays the following information:

• reporting categories for each test;

• number of test items in each reporting category;

• Standards of Learning (SOLs) included in each reporting category. SOLs are identified by numbers and letters that correspond to the original SOL document (letters are assigned to the "bullets" in the original document);

• SOLs which are excluded from the SOL test;

• number of operational items on the test;

• number of field-test items on the test; and

• total number of items (operational and field-test items) on the test.

3. Expanded Blueprint: provides the same information as the Blueprint Summary Table except that the full text of each SOL is included. In addition, SOLs that are excluded from the test are categorized by the reason they were not included.

What is a reporting category?

Each test covers a number of SOLs. In the test blueprint, SOLs are grouped into categories that address related content or skills. These categories are labeled Reporting Categories. For example, a Reporting Category for the Grade 5 Mathematics test is "Computation and Estimation." Each of the SOLs in this reporting category addresses computation using addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division or require the student to estimate the answer to a problem. When the results of the SOL tests are reported, the scores will be presented in terms of scores for each Reporting Category and a total test score.

Are some SOLs assigned to more than one reporting category?

"Bullets" under a particular SOL are sometimes coded to different reporting categories. For example, the Science SOL 2.7a which deals with the effects that weather and seasonal changes have on the growth and behavior of living things is assigned to the reporting category "Life Processes and Living Systems" in the Grade 3 Science test. However, SOL 2.7b which deals with the effects of weather and seasonal changes on weathering and erosion of the land surface is assigned to the reporting category "Earth/Space Systems and Cycles." Each "bullet" is assigned to only one reporting category.

Why are some SOLs not tested on the SOL tests?

In some content areas, there are SOLs that do not lend themselves to multiple-choice testing. For example, in English, the oral language SOLs cannot be appropriately assessed in a multiple-choice format. In other cases, an SOL listed in one content area is covered by a similar SOL in another content area. For example, English SOL 4.9 which addresses the use of available technology to research a topic is covered by a similar SOL at grade 5 (Computer/Technology SOL C/T 5.3).

At the end of the blueprint for each test, the SOLs not tested are listed in "SOLs Excluded from Testing." In the expanded blueprint the SOLs excluded from testing are categorized by the reason they are not being tested.

Will all SOLs listed in the blueprint be assessed each time the SOL tests are given?

Due to the large number of SOLs in a content area for a grade span, every SOL will not be assessed on every SOL test form. By necessity, to keep the length of a test reasonable, each test will sample from the SOLs within a reporting category. However, every SOL is eligible for inclusion on each form of an SOL test.

Grade 8: Writing

Test Development Guidelines

The grade 8 writing test has two components: 1) a multiple-choice component and 2) a direct-writing component in which students write in response to a prompt.

A. General Considerations

1. All items included in this test will address the knowledge and skills specified in the writing strand of the 1998 Virginia Standards of Learning in English for grades 6- 8.

2. The items (including prompts) will be free of stereotyping or bias directed at a particular age, gender, economic status, racial, ethnic or religious group, or geographic region.

3. The test will be untimed. The multiple-choice component will be administered on one day and the response to the writing prompt will be administered on the next day. Dates for the administration of both components will be set by the Department of Education.

4. There is no penalty for guessing. Students' scores will be based on the number of correct answers on the multiple-choice component and points earned on the response to the writing prompt.

5. The multiple-choice component of the Grade 8 writing test will be composed of a series of brief scenarios, each of which defines a writing task for a specified audience. Items following the statement of the writing task will address planning or prewriting activities relevant to the specified task and will be coded to the Planning, Composing, and Revising reporting category.

A rough draft of a response to the specified writing task will follow the planning/prewriting test items. The rough draft will be divided into two sections. The first section will have errors which require revision such as the inclusion of a sentence that does not belong or two sentences that need to be combined. Items following the first section of the rough draft will require the student to correct these errors by choosing the correct revision from the answer choices provided. These items will also be coded to the Planning, Composing, and Revising reporting category.

The second section of the rough draft will contain embedded errors in usage or mechanics. Items following this section will refer to underlined words or groups of words in the second section of the rough draft and will require students to choose the answer which represents correct usage or mechanics. These items will be coded to the Editing reporting category. In some cases the underlined words will contain no error and the correct answer will be "as it is."

6. In the direct-writing component of the grade 8 writing test, students will be asked to write in response to a prompt. Prompts will present to the student a context for writing in the form of a question, an issue, or a hypothetical situation. Each student’s response to the writing prompt will receive a score in each of three domains:
1) composing, 2) written expression, and 3) usage and mechanics. Each domain will be scored independently, using the following scale.

4 = The writer demonstrates consistent, though not necessarily perfect, control* of almost all the domain’s features.

3 = The writer demonstrates reasonable, but not consistent, control* of most of the domain’s features indicating some weakness in the domain.

2 = The writer demonstrates enough inconsistent control* of several of the domain’s features indicating some weakness in the domain.

1 = The writer demonstrates little or no control* of most of the domain’s features.

* Control is the ability to use a given feature of written language effectively at the appropriate grade level. A paper receives a higher score to the extent that it demonstrates increasing control of the features in each domain. The rubric included in the blueprint for the grade 8 writing assessment explains what is meant by each score point in each domain.

All papers are read by at least two readers, with the student’s score for each domain being the total of the score assigned by both readers. For example, in the composing domain, if Reader A gives the student’s paper a 3 and Reader B gives the student’s paper a 2, the student’s score in the composing domain would be a 5. Since a reader may assign a score of 1 to 4, the range of possible scores in any domain would be from 2 to 8 when the two readers' scores are added together.

Score points from the composing and written expression domains are assigned to the Planning, Composing, and Revising reporting category. Score points from the usage and mechanics domain are assigned to the Editing reporting category.

A list of sentence formation, usage, and mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, and spelling) skills which are evaluated in the usage and mechanics domain of the rubric and which may be addressed by items in the multiple-choice component follows the expanded blueprint.

7. Scenarios, rough draft writing samples, items, and prompts will be appropriate for eighth-grade students in terms of difficulty, interest, and reading level, as determined by the Content Review Committee.

8. Students must be provided scratch paper and access to a dictionary on the direct-writing component of the writing test. Students may not use a thesaurus for the direct-writing component.

9. Students may not use a dictionary or a thesaurus for the multiple-choice component.

B. Item Format for the Multiple-Choice Component

Each item will be a multiple-choice item containing four choices. Choices such as "none of the above," "all of the above," and "not here" will not be used.

Items in the Planning, Composing, and Revising Reporting Category

1. Items will not necessarily follow the order of the sentences in the writing sample.

2. Tested sentences will be separated by at least one untested sentence whenever possible.

3. "As it is" will not be an option for items in this category.

Items in the Editing Reporting Category

1. In the rough draft the word or groups of words tested by each item will be underlined.

2. At least one untested word will separate underlined sections.

3. Each underlined portion will contain one error only.

4. Items will appear in the same order as the tested sentences in the rough draft.

5. "As it is" will be an option.

C. Ancillary Materials

1. Dictionary for the direct-writing component only.

2. Scratch paper for the direct-writing component only.

Grade 8: English

Writing

Blueprint Summary Table

Reporting Categories

Multiple-Choice Component:

No. of Items

Direct-Writing Component:

No. of Possible Score Points

Grade Six

SOLs

Grade Seven SOLs

Grade Eight SOLs

Plan, compose, and revise in a variety of forms for a variety of purposes

10

Composing: 8

Written Expression: 8

6.7a-e

7.8a-e

8.5a-e

Edit for correct use of language, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

10

Usage & Mechanics: 8

6.7f-g

7.8f-g

8.5f-g

SOLs Excluded from This Test

6.8a-f

7.8h

7.9a

8.5h







Total Number of Operational Items

20

24

Field-Test Items*

14


Total Number of Items

34

24

* These field-test items will not be used to compute students' scores on the test.

Reporting Category: Plan, compose, and revise writing in a variety of forms for a variety of purposes.

Number of Items: 10 multiple-choice items and 16 points from a writing prompt

Grade Six SOLs in This Reporting Category:

6.7 The student will write narratives, descriptions, and explanations.

a) Use a variety of planning strategies to generate and organize ideas.

b) Establish central idea, organization, elaboration, and unity.

c) Select vocabulary and information to enhance the central idea, tone, and voice.

d) Expand and embed ideas by using modifiers, standard coordination, and subordination in complete sentences.

e) Revise writing for clarity.

Grade Seven SOLs in This Reporting Category:

7.8 The student will develop narrative, expository, persuasive, and technical writings.

a) Apply knowledge of prewriting strategies.

b) Elaborate the central idea in an organized manner.

c) Choose vocabulary and information that will cause a reader to perceive images and tone.

d) Use clauses and phrases to embed context into sentences.

e) Revise writing for clarity.

Grade Eight SOLs in This Reporting Category:

8.5 The student will write in a variety of forms, including narrative, expository and persuasive writings.

a) Use prewriting strategies to generate and organize ideas.

b) Focus on elaboration and organization.

c) Select specific vocabulary and information.

d) Use standard sentence formation, eliminating comma splices and other nonstandard forms of sentences that distract readers.

e) Revise writing for word choice, appropriate organization, consistent point of view, and transitions among paragraphs.

Reporting Category: Edit for correct use of language, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

Number of Items: 10 multiple-choice items and 8 points from a writing prompt

Grade Six SOLs in This Reporting Category:

6.7 The student will write narratives, descriptions, and explanations.

f) Edit final copies for correct use of language: subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement, consistent tense inflections, and adverb and adjective usage.

a) Edit final copies for writing mechanics: format, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

Grade Seven SOLs in This Reporting Category:

7.8 The student will develop narrative, expository, persuasive, and technical writings.

f) Edit final copies to ensure correct use of homonyms, pronoun-antecedent agreement, subject-verb agreement, and verb tense consistency.

a) Edit final copies to ensure correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and format.

Grade Eight SOLs in This Reporting Category:

8.5 The student will write in a variety of forms, including narrative, expository and persuasive writings.

f) Edit final copies to ensure correct use of pronoun case, verb tense inflections, and adjective and adverb comparisons.

a) Edit final copies to ensure correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and format.

Grade Six SOLs

Excluded from This Test

The following SOLs are not measurable in a multiple-choice format.

6.8 The student will use writing as a tool for learning in all subjects.

a) Make lists.

b) Paraphrase what is heard or read.

c) Summarize what is heard or read.

d) Hypothesize.

e) Connect knowledge within and across disciplines.

f) Synthesize information to construct new concepts.

Grade Seven SOLs

Excluded from This Test

The following SOLs are not measurable in a multiple-choice format.

7.8 The student will develop narrative, expository, persuasive, and technical writings.

h) Use available technology.

7.9 The student will use a word processor to plan, draft, revise, and publish some writings.

a) Use available word processing tools to check spelling, style, and grammar.

Grade Eight SOLs

Excluded from This Test

The following SOL is not measurable in a multiple-choice format.

8.5 The student will write in a variety of forms, including narrative, expository and persuasive writings.

h) Use available technology.

Grade 8: English Writing Test

Composing Rubric

Score Point 4

The writer demonstrates consistent, though not necessarily perfect, control of the composing domain’s features. Full elaboration focuses the central idea both at the sentence level and throughout the entire piece by providing purposeful examples, anecdotes, illustrations, or details. Narrative organization is intact; in other modes, minor organizational lapses may occur. In all types of writing, a strong organizational plan is apparent. Any organizational lapses that occur do not significantly detract from the presentation. Several elements in the writing provide evidence of unity: appropriate transitions, a consistent point of view (e.g., not switching from "I" to "you"), a lack of digressions, and the presence of a lead and closure that is more than mere repetition of statements.

Score Point 3

The writer demonstrates reasonable, but not consistent, control of the composing domain’s features; the writer may control some features more than others. Purposeful elaboration focuses the central idea both at the sentence level and throughout the entire piece of writing. However, occasional thinness or unevenness in elaboration may occur. Narrative organization is intact. Organizational lapses may occur (in modes other than narration), but an overall plan is apparent. Unity is evidenced by the fact that few, if any, minor digressions or shifts in point of view occur. Transitions are, on the whole, purposefully used. An opening and closing, though not sophisticated, are present.

Score Point 2

The writer demonstrates inconsistent control of several features, indicating significant weakness in the composing domain. At this score point, major digressions may be present, or ideas compete and no one idea emerges as central. Even if a single idea dominates, the writing may be a list of general, underdeveloped statements or a skeletal plot. Often, little elaboration or organization is apparent. Although a contrived closure may be present, inconsistent control of transitions or the lack of a logically elaborated central idea prevent unity from emerging.

Score Point 1

The writer demonstrates little or no control of most of the composing domain’s features. The focus on a central idea is lacking, or the piece is so sparse that the presence of a clear focus is insufficient for it to earn a higher score. Typically, the writing jumps from point to point, without a unifying central idea. No overall organizational strategy is apparent. The writing seems haphazard, and sentences can be rearranged without substantially changing the meaning. Bare statement is the norm, but even in responses that are several pages long, no purposeful elaboration is present.

Grade 8: English Writing Test

Written Expression Rubric

Score Point 4

The writer demonstrates consistent, though not necessarily perfect, control of the written expression domain’s features. The result is a purposefully crafted message that the reader remembers, primarily because its precise information and vocabulary resonate as images in the reader’s mind. Highly specific word choice and information also create tone in the writing and enhance the writer’s voice. Metaphors, similes, and other figurative language, if present, are purposeful. The writer repeats or varies sentence construction for effect and appropriately subordinates ideas and embeds modifiers on a regular basis, resulting in a rhythmic flow throughout the piece.

Score Point 3

The writer demonstrates reasonable, but not consistent, control of the written expression domain’s features; the writer may control some features more than others. On the whole, specific word choice and information cause the message to be clear; occasionally, a few examples of vivid or purposeful figurative language may be present. Along with instances of successful control, a few general statements or vague words might be presented; when they are, the tone and voice of the piece will flatten somewhat. Overall, subordination and sentence variety are present, but occasional awkward constructions or the lack of structural complexity may diminish the rhythm of the paper.

Score Point 2

The writer demonstrates inconsistent control of several features, indicating significant weakness in the written expression domain. Some specificity of word choice might exist, but mostly the message will be crafted with imprecise, bland language. As a result, the writer’s voice emerges only on occasion, if at all. The selection of information may be uneven and/or consist of an attempt to tell everything that the writer knows about a topic. A relative lack of sentence variety may make the reading monotonous, and awkward constructions may be distracting enough to make the writer’s meaning unclear on occasion. While a few brief rhythmic clusters of sentences may occur, an overall sense of rhythmic flow is not present.

Score Point 1

The writer demonstrates little or no control of most of the written expression domain’s features. Both word choice and information are general, vague, and/or repetitive. A lack of sentence variety makes the presentation monotonous. The existence of several extremely awkward constructions may further reduce the paper’s stylistic effect. The writer’s lack of control of vocabulary and information prevents both tone and voice from emerging.

Grade 8: English Writing Test

Usage/Mechanics Rubric

Score Point 4

The writer demonstrates consistent, though not necessarily perfect, control of the domain’s features of usage/mechanics. The writing demonstrates a thorough understanding of usage and mechanics as specified in the Virginia K-8 SOLs. The author uses capitalization, punctuation, usage, and sentence formation and applies the structural principles of spelling. A few careless errors in usage and mechanics may be present. However, the writer’s control of the domain’s many features is too strong for these mistakes to detract from the performance.

Score Point 3

The writer demonstrates reasonable, but not consistent, control of most of the domain’s features of usage/mechanics. The writing demonstrates a basic understanding of usage and mechanics as specified in the Virginia K-8 SOLs. For the most part, the author appropriately applies both the rules of capitalization, punctuation, usage, and sentence formation and the structural principles of spelling expected of 8th graders.

Score Point 2

The writer demonstrates inconsistent control of several features, indicating significant weakness in the domain of usage/mechanics. Evidence of the author’s knowledge of features of this domain appears alongside frequent errors. In terms of both usage and mechanics, the writer inconsistently applies the rules of capitalization, punctuation, usage, spelling, and sentence formation as specified in the Virginia K-8 SOLs. The density of errors across features outweighs the feature control present in the paper.

Score Point 1

The writer demonstrates little or no control of most of the domain’s features of usage/mechanics. Frequent and severe errors in the Virginia K-8 usage and mechanics SOLs distract the reader and make the writing very hard to understand. Even when meaning is not significantly affected, the density and variety of errors overwhelm the performance and keep it from meeting minimum standards of competence.

Grade 8: English Writing Test

Sentence Formation, Usage, and Mechanics

Skills List

Listed below are skills in the areas of sentence formation, usage, and mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, formatting, and spelling) which may be addressed on both the multiple choice and the direct writing components of the Grade 8 English writing test.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive but to provide examples of the skills which may be addressed on the writing test at grade 8.

Standard Sentence Formation

Use complete sentences

Avoid comma splices

Avoid fused sentences (run-ons)

Usage

Correct use of the following:

subject-verb agreement

"I" in compound subject situations

"Me" as a direct or indirect object

them, those

good, well

pronoun antecedent agreement

adjective comparisons

adverb comparisons

adverbs instead of adjectives where appropriate (e.g., "He played really well." instead of "He played real well.")

verb tenses (including the use of helping verbs)

plurals (-s, -es, changes in spellings)

possessives (singular and plural)

negatives (avoid double negatives)

Use of correct words (e.g., "Give them your respect and be friendly." instead of

"Give them your respect and show yourself friendly.")

Maintain tense consistency

Mechanics

Punctuation

Correct use of the following:

periods, question marks, or exclamation points at the end of sentences

periods after abbreviations

commas around interrupters (includes nouns of address and appositives)

commas in dates, series, addresses

commas before certain clauses

punctuation in and around dialogue

quotation marks around dialogue and title of articles

apostrophes in singular and plural

Capitalization

Capitalize:

the first word of a sentence

proper nouns

"I"

school subjects as needed

"Mom" and "Dad" when appropriate

Format

indent paragraphs or double space between them

paragraph dialogue correctly

divide words between syllables with a hyphen at end of line

Spelling

spell frequently used and common words correctly