Personalized learning fuels student progress Onalaska Middle School, Onalaska, Washington

Personalized learning fuels student progress


Next-generation program empowers young writers

For Terri Dalsted, perhaps the most powerful outcome of next-generation learning and assessment is the confidence it gives her sixth and seventh graders. “Personalized instruction is empowering. There’s nothing like the look on a kid’s face when he explains the skills he’s mastered and tells his parents that he’s working at a ninth-grade level.”


With WriteToLearn students feel in control of their own learning,

Terri Dalsted


Seventh-grade scores improved by 23% in the first year of using WriteToLearn.

Onalaska Middle School Results

Student confidence and state test scores improve after OMS added a next-generation learning program to their writing instruction.

Dalsted is a writing teacher at Onalaska Middle School (OMS) in Onalaska, Washington, a small unincorporated community in the southwestern portion of the state. One of the school’s biggest challenges was to effectively use class time to improve student writing skills. In 2010/2011, students were passing Washington’s statewide assessment, Measure of Student Progress (MSP), with the bare minimum writing skills for their grade level. That wasn’t good enough for OMS teachers and administrators.

In the 2011/2012 school year, they sought to improve student outcomes by adopting WriteToLearn™, a fully automated online literacy tool for building writing skills and developing reading comprehension. Onalaska sixth and seventh graders log into their own accounts via the school’s iPads and complete writing activities assigned by their teacher. As they write essays, summarize reading passages, and complete vocabulary exercises, students receive personalized feedback, hints, and tips to encourage, instruct, and reward progress.

This next-generation program provides students with the ability to work at their own pace, giving advanced learners enrichment opportunities while providing modified instruction to those who were struggling. It also mirrors the school’s state assessment and helps Dalsted prepare her students for the Smarter Balanced assessment they’ll be using to measure Common Core State Standards in 2014.

“With WriteToLearn students feel in control of their own learning,” says Dalsted. “It doesn’t matter if they’re working down a grade level or are well ahead of the class. Each student is smiling and high-fiving when they pass a module. And each week they’re begging me to assign a new writing prompt so they can reach the next level.”

Students’ growing self-esteem was validated when seventh-grade scores improved by 23% in the first year of using WriteToLearn.

Before Intervention

In 2010/11, 56% of students met or exceeded writing standards


After OMS Adjusted Instruction with WriteToLearn

In 2011/12, 79% of students met or exceeded writing standards
In 2012/13, 69% of students met or exceeded writing standards

“Before WriteToLearn, I had never seen a student get a perfect score on the MSP writing exam,” says Dalsted. “In 2013, 13 out of my 52 seventh graders earned them. That’s a quarter of the class!”

Because it’s proven so effective, OMS has expanded the use of WriteToLearn to eighth graders, as well as struggling students in reading and writing support classes. The program also provides data educators can use as evidence of student growth in Washington’s new teacher evaluation system. In every way, this learning and assessment tool is helping OMS keep up with increasingly rigorous standards and achieve its goal to personalize learning for all students.


An online writing program for grades 4-12

Help students develop vital reading, writing, and vocabulary skills with this literacy tool for Grades 4-12. As students complete activities, they receive immediate, personalized feedback to encourage, instruct, and reward their progress.
Learn more about WriteToLearn