TAAS writing focuses on the practical skill of persuasive writing, which has real-world application in answers to essay questions, research papers, letters to the editor, business memos and even e-mails. It measures mastery of four language arts objectives:

  • The student will write a composition on a given topic;
  • Organize ideas;
  • Demonstrate control of the English language, and
  • Support/elaborate a central idea on the topic.

Important language mechanics, such as spelling, capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure and usage, are assessed on a multiple-choice portion of the TAAS writing test.

Language errors in the handwritten response are not penalized unless they interfere with the reader’s understanding of the writer’s ideas.

Persuasive writing supports a chosen position by developing and elaborating reasons. At my house, we’ve created a mathematical formula for this style: Introduction + (Assertion #1 + supporting detail) + (Assertion #2 + supporting detail) + (Assertion #3 + supporting detail) = Conclusion.

Enough overview: Now, you evaluate these short responses.

Prompt: Your principal has asked students to suggest a new after-school activity. What is your suggestion?

Response #1: Basketball, what a fun game! I have a very detailed proposal for basketball after school. It’s fun running, dribbling, shooting, passing and even fouling. Basketball in the after-school hours would get kids to stay and play instead of going out in the neighborhood and getting into trouble. On the other hand, in basketball you have to be patient because it’s a rough sport. It would cost money to play basketball in the afternoon, and people might get into arguments, but oh well. So please consider basketball as an after-school activity.

Response #2: I believe we should add an art club after school. First, art teaches the children many things, like the history of art, the techniques and value of art, and gives hands-on training with art supplies. It also helps kids express their feelings. Second, when kids produce a beautiful painting or sculpture, they will feel better about themselves and then maybe their grades will improve. Third, it keeps children off the streets and safely in school with friends and teachers rather than being home alone, at a daycare or roaming the streets by themselves without adult supervision, or doing drugs and gangs. Please consider an after-school art club because it will teach children about art, it will give them self-confidence, and it will provide a safe place for kids.

Answers: Response #1 scored low because the reasons are general and minimally elaborated. Response #2 scored high because the position is clearly understood with convincing support.