Students with language-learning disabilities (LLD) demonstrate difficulties with written language, especially in the areas of productivity, complexity, and grammar. It is not clear how these deficits affect their performance on high-stakes tests, such as those required by the No Child Left Behind Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). This study used writing samples to compare how students with and without LLD scored on analytic writing measures that are typically used in writing research and on a more holistic measure of writing, the six-traits writing rubric (STWR; Education Northwest, 2006), which is used in high-stakes writing assessments.


Fifty-six 4th and 5th graders with typical development (TD) or LLD produced 1 narrative and 1 expository writing sample. Measures of oral language ability and handwriting accuracy–speed were also obtained. The narrative and expository samples were scored using 5–6 separate analytic measures and 6 separate traits on the STWR.


On narratives, the TD group scored significantly higher than the LLD group on 5 analytic measures and all 6 traits. Similarly, for expository, the TD group outscored the LLD group on 3 analytic measures and all 6 traits. Results demonstrate that the analytic scores of productivity, sentence complexity, and lexical diversity were correlated significantly with a higher overall score on the STWR for narrative writing samples only.


Results of this study suggest that exclusive use of analytic scores to select treatment goals and document writing progress may not translate into increased scores on writing rubrics, particularly for expository writing samples.


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