Norbert Elliot

On a Scale: A Social History of Writing Assessment in America

On A Scale
Format: Paperback, 432 pp.
ISBN: 0-8204-2778-0
Series Name: Studies in Composition and Rhetoric
ISSN: 1080-5397
Published: 2005
Discipline: Literature and Language Studies (General)
Publisher: Peter Lang USA

On a Scale: A Social History of Writing Assessment in America has been selected as one of two winners of the 2007 CCCC Outstanding Book Award. Professor Elliot shares the award with Krista Ratcliffe for Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness.

In addition, the Committee for the Stephen P. Witte Award for Excellence in Writing Assessment Scholarship has chosen On a Scale as one of two texts it wished to honor for the 2005 Award. The Witte Award is given on annual basis (when merited) by the Journal of Writing Assessment (published by Hampton Press) to those whose excellence in writing assessment scholarship merits such recognition. Professor Elliot shares the award with Carl Withaus; his book, Teaching and Evaluating Writing in the Age of Computers and High Stakes Testing, was also chosen.

Reviews of On A Scale: Vivette Milson-Whyte, Pedagogies 2.2 (2007): 121-124; Harry Denny and Pat Balanoff, Jounral of Teaching Writing 22.2 (2006): 127-138; Richard H. Haswell, Assessing Writing 11.2 (2006): 140-144; William Condon, Rhetoric Review 25.4 (2006): 470-473; Holly Middleton, Composition Studies 34.2 (2006): 135-137.

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Which set of statements best describes the emotions surrounding
the assessment of writing ability in educational settings?
A)  Fear and Trembling?
B)  Shock and Awe?

This book—the first historical study of its kind—begins with Harvard University’s 1874 requirement that first-year student applicants submit a short composition as part of the admissions process; the book concludes with the College Board’s 2005 requirement for an essay to be submitted as part of the new SAT®: Reasoning Test. Intended for teachers who must prepare students to submit their writing for formal assessment, administrators who must make critical decisions based on test scores, and policy makers who must allocate resources based on evaluation systems, On a Scale provides a much-needed historical and conceptual background to questions arising from national attention to student writing ability.

"On a Scale will stand as a landmark study of writing assessment in the United States. Norbert Elliot combines thorough research with extraordinary insight into the people who shaped literacy instruction and the con-texts in which they worked. Elliot’s book changes our thinking about how and why we judge writing.”
Lester Faigley 
Robert Adger Law and Thos. H. Law Professor in Humanities, University of Texas at Austin; Author of Fragments of Rationality: Postmodernity and the Subject of Composition

"Norbert Elliot’s On A Scale is a timely treatment of one of today’s hot-test educational issues—writing assessment. Elliot provides superb historical background, demonstrating how the testing of writing has always been fraught with difficulty in attaining reliability and validity. Today’s teachers and scholars will benefit from Elliot’s careful examination of all the sources, including his valuable look at the ETS archives. In an impressively researched volume, Elliot presents the best single overview of the topic, a book that is sure to become the definitive work on its subject.”

John Brereton
Director, Calderwood Writing Initiative, The Boston Athenæum; Editor of The Origins of Composition Studies in the American College, 1875–1925: A Documentary History

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