Blog Post: A Tale of Two Districts

Feb 24, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


With the continued emphasis on writing proficiency for students in American schools, choosing a writing curriculum has undeniably become a data-driven decision. More than ever before teachers and administrators are searching for a method that works, and they want objective evidence to back it up. Two school districts two thousand miles apart bravely took the IEW plunge, and the results were amazing! We can confidently answer the question, “Can switching to IEW’s writing method actually improve students’ test scores?”


Study #1: Rocklin Unified School District, 2005

When the Rocklin Unified School District near Sacramento, California, was first introduced to IEW’s method in 2001, there was no prescribed K–6 writing curriculum in the district. Using whatever methods and materials they chose, teachers taught writing as best they could. Rocklin’s middle school teachers were unhappy about how poorly prepared students were for seventh-grade writing and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the elementary teachers.

The Structure and Style writing method was adopted district-wide in grades 4–6 and some third grade classrooms. Over the next three years, Rocklin teachers were trained through in-service sessions and classroom demonstrations by Andrew Pudewa. Writing skills began to improve across the district, and the middle school teachers stopped complaining. The tide had turned.

At the time of Rocklin’s adoption, teachers created their own lessons using a combination of source texts provided in the Seminar Workbook, those that were available through IEW at that time, and textbook sources already being used in Rocklin classrooms. While this made implementation of Structure and Style more challenging, the results were quite remarkable.

In 2003, 36 percent of seventh grade students in both Rocklin middle schools were below proficiency in writing as determined by California State Standards tests, which were administered in grades 4 and 7, with 31 percent having the lowest possible score. By 2004 and 2005, as the fourth graders had moved into grade 7, only 4–5 percent were below proficiency, and only 2 percent had the lowest score, indicating a dramatic overall improvement in students with several years of consistently applied instruction in Structure and Style. As illuminating as those results were, IEW desired a more scientific study be conducted.


Study #2: Berwyn North District 98, 2014

In April 2014 the Berwyn North School District 98 near Chicago, Illinois, agreed to allow ECRA, an independent testing agency, to assess students in two sets of classrooms. In this study one group of teachers received both live training in the Structure and Style method and curriculum materials; the control group did not.

The demographics were similar for both groups tested—predominantly English Learners with the majority classified as “economically disadvantaged.” In the fourth grade class that participated in the study group, 100 percent of the students were English Learners. The fifth grade class was considered an inclusion class where students with identified learning disabilities were taught side by side with general education students. In both study classes the trained teachers were first-year teachers, and their students were using IEW’s method for the first time. The teachers in the control group classes, who were considered excellent teachers in the Berwyn district, continued to use the instructional methods they had used the previous year.

Using identical assessment tools created by ECRA to meet Illinois State Standards/Common Core Standards, both groups of students were evaluated in the fall of 2014 and again in the spring of 2015 to determine if their writing scores were affected by practicing IEW’s Structure and Style approach to teaching writing. While both groups showed improvement, the test results demonstrated that students taught by IEW-trained teachers progressed significantly more than students in the control group—fourth grade: 23 percent versus 2 percent; fifth grade: 28 percent versus 2 percent. The results show an unequivocal YES! IEW can make a huge difference in students’ test scores after just one year!

If you are searching for a research-supported writing method with documented results, we invite you to consider IEW’s Structure and Style method. It works, and we can prove it!

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