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Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

Performance Standards in Writing Project

To:Superintendents, Principals, Teachers, and Other Interested Parties
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed. D., Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Date:February 27, 2009


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has initiated a project to collect and publish samples of writing assignments and exemplary student work aligned with the standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. The goal is to select the samples that best show what it means to meet or exceed the standards in the Frameworks. When the material is published along with commentary, it will become a public resource for students, teachers and parents to improve students' mastery of important academic skills and content. The project is currently seeking:

  • teachers to submit samples of student work;
  • candidates with expertise in writing to serve on a committee to review and select student samples.

Submission of Student Work

The project is currently seeking student writing in grades 3 - 8. There is no set number of samples that may be submitted, but the work should be writing that meets or exceeds the state content standards for the given grade level and serves at least one of the following three primary purposes:

  • to convey experience to a reader
    (e.g., personal or fictional narratives, poetry, descriptions of real or imagined people, places or events);
  • to persuade a reader to change a point of view or take action
    (e.g., simple persuasive essays, editorials, letters, or speeches on school or community issues);
  • to inform or explain in order to expand a reader's understanding
    (e.g., short research papers, reports of investigations, interviews, summaries of informational reading, book reports, instructions, news articles for a school or community newspaper or website).

Please consider sending work stemming from topics that students have chosen themselves instead of those from a formal prompt. Our experience has shown that this type of work, especially when it has remained open for revision over a period of time, best meets the expectations of this project. The main criterion is that the work must demonstrate a high level of engagement with the content material.

Up to this point, the Department has published student responses to MCAS. This project represents an effort to complement the MCAS material with examples of actual class work. The student work will appear on the Curriculum Frameworks section of the Department's website in order to make it as accessible as possible. We will maintain the anonymity of all the students whose work is presented, while also acknowledging the schools that contributed to the project. The material will be used only for educational, non-commercial purposes, and no child's name or home address will be displayed. We will accept submissions of student work on an ongoing basis.

Applicants to Review Student Work

There are currently two committees charged with the selection of exemplary student writing. One is focused on work from grades 3-5 and the other from grades 6-8. Many participants have found this work to be a rewarding professional development opportunity. Applicants to serve on one of the committees should have demonstrable expertise in the instruction and assessment of writing either through experience in grades K-12, higher education or as a provider of teacher training or assessment development.

Those interested in submitting student work samples or serving on one of the review committees should contact David Buchanan at (781) 338-6235 or

Last Updated: February 27, 2009
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