This study evaluates a new two-year intervention focused on student writing called Drive to Write. The intervention integrates technology coaching into a global history curriculum to create opportunities for focused student writing and revision and increased teacher feedback on writing.

While schools strive to integrate writing skills practice into multiple subjects, providing feedback for revision is time consuming, and teachers may feel overloaded and unable to add that task to their growing list of responsibilities. At the same time, anecdotes abound of computers sitting dormant in classrooms because teachers have not been trained in how to integrate them into daily practice and lesson plans. To address these shortages of time and training, Drive to Write technology coaches and instructional specialists provide teachers with ongoing support during the school year on integrating writing assignments and feedback into lesson plans and using free cloud-based technology to distribute, comment on, and grade assignments. 

New Visions for Public Schools, the school-support organization that is conducting the intervention, won a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) development grant and contracted MDRC as its independent evaluator.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The study will examine whether coaching ninth- and tenth-grade teachers on integrating technology to support writing instruction can improve student test scores on the New York State Global History exam at the end of tenth grade. Students complete a number of assignments in Global History, particularly drawing on primary sources and requiring argumentation and exposition.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The randomized controlled trial will take place in a subset of 24 New York City district-run high schools serving low-income students that work with New Visions for Public Schools. (New Visions supports schools through professional development, coaching, technology assistance, curriculum guides, and other tools.) The study team will analyze data on teacher technology use and response to coaching, as well as student assignment completion and writing scores on the state history exam.

The sample of schools have in common previous use of the New Visions Global History curriculum with a focus on use of primary sources, foundational sentence-level and composition-level writing strategies, and access to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) tools. The schools assigned to receive the digital writing program (the program group) will receive intensive professional development and coaching in using GAFE tools, including Doctopus, Classroom, and Goobric, as well as pedagogical training in technology to support the personalization of assignments and regular use of digital tools in classroom instruction. The schools assigned to the control group will continue with instruction as usual.