Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

Spring 5-20-2016


Quandt, J. M. (2016). Perceptions of the Eighth Grade State Writing Assessment at a Nationally Recognized Middle School. Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Teaching, Learning, & Teacher Education, Under the Supervision of Professor John Raible. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2016

Copyright © 2016 Jillian Quandt


This study seeks to understand how one at-risk middle school in Nebraska is consistently beating eighth grade Nebraska State Writing Assessment (NESA-W) averages. The school has significant populations of Hispanic, special education, and low-income students. The study answers the following two research questions. What strategies does the at-risk school utilize to enable its students to exceed the Nebraska average on the NESA-W? What attitudes do the school’s writing teachers, administrators, students, and their parents hold about the NESA-W? Students and their parents answered a multiple-choice survey; teachers and administrators answered a longer, open-ended survey. The researcher used a combination of her own experience teaching at the school and the surveys’ emergent themes and subthemes to identify three prescriptive (district required) successful NESA-W preparation strategies: district writing, middle school concept, and professional learning communities. The researcher also identified four discretionary strategies (teacher directed) using only the teacher and administrator surveys: staff individual characteristics, preparation time, curriculum, and the five-paragraph essay. The study determined that teachers and administrators at the at-risk school have a positive attitude about the NESA-W and generally do not find the test to be problematic. Students and their parents feel that the test is worthwhile and that success is attainable.

Advisor: John Raible