A prominent feature analysis of seventh-grade writing
The present study identified the characteristics of seventh-grade writing produced in an on-demand state assessment situation. The subjects were 464 seventh graders in three middle schools in the southeastern United States. The research team included 12 English language arts teachers. Results of the analysis yielded some 32 prominent features, 22 positive and 10 negative. The features were correlated with state assessment scores, which ranged from 1 to 4. Of the 22 positive features, 14 correlated positively with the assessment scores. Of the ten negative features, 8 correlated negatively with the assessment scores. The study also found 108 statistically significant (p <.001) interrcorrelations among the features. From the features themselves, a formula was devised to create a prominent feature score for each paper, the scores ranging from 3 to 21. The prominent feature scores were also significantly correlated with assessment scores (r = .54). Whereas statewide assessment scoring assigns numerical values to student writing, prominent feature analysis or scoring derives numerical values from specific rhetorical features. These results may be helpful for classroom teachers for the assessment and diagnosis of student writing and for professionals who lead staff development programs for teachers.