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Mandatory Writing Test for Soldiers, Grade Point Average Evaluation

(TRADOC News) A Writing test will be required for all Soldiers and NCOs attending
the Basic Leader Course (BLC), the Advanced Leader Course (ALC), and the Senior
Leader Course (SLC) after 1 October 2016.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Institute for Noncommissioned
Officer Professional Development is a forward-leaning organization that coordinates
and operationalizes future training and education imperatives for the NCO cohort.
In fiscal year 2016, INCOPD launched a writing pilot in the Basic Leader Course
with the goal of getting an overall picture of how proficient Soldiers are at writing.

What is the Criterion writing assessment?

The Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, or INCOPD,
purchased commercially available automated essay scoring software from the
Educational Testing Service in order to assess BLC students’ writing skills at the first
year of college level. This online tool provides a score on a scale of one to six that
categorizes an individual’s writing level. The essay scoring software gives an overall
assessment of the Soldier’s writing mechanics to include grammar, punctuation,
spelling, syntax, usage, organization and development. Findings from the initial pilot
in the BLC indicated that approximately 75 percent of those taking the assessment
could benefit from additional coaching and practice at writing.

How is the writing pilot going so far?

At this point, 11,000 NCOs who attended BLC in FY16 have taken the writing
assessment. My initial observation is that the short 45-minute assessment can easily
be incorporated at the start of the course. Basic Leader Course students are eager
to take the assessment to know where they stand as far as writing skills.

In addition to this renewed emphasis on education, incorporating grade-point
averages and class rankings will not only better evaluate soldiers’ performance, they
also will make it easier for military education to translate into civilian college credits.

In its current form, the Army Form 1059, the Service School Academic Evaluation
Report, consists of a series of block checks to determine if a student met or
exceeded the standards required for any particular course. Soon, the 1059 will
include a soldier’s GPA and class ranking, providing a clearer picture of a soldier’s
academic performance and achievements, officials said.

Why does PME need to include a focus on writing? Are we trying to make
NCOs into officers?

Within NCOES, the goal of writing in PME should not be simply to over-train
Soldiers on Army writing style and their ability to use the rules of grammar,
punctuation or spelling. Our goal is a much broader one of setting conditions within
NCO PME for Soldiers to think about their own learning and how newly gained
knowledge can be applied on the job. Writing assignments when used properly can
strengthen engagement in a course. Thinking, writing, and reflecting upon what we
learn is a part of the active learning process. In addition, the future vision is that
Army schools that teach NCOES courses will routinely develop writing standards
for their NCOs to ensure they have the ability to carry out administrative functions,
counsel subordinates in writing, and to brief with authority.

Are NCO instructors trained to grade my papers?

Facilitators in NCOES will be given training to help them review student papers using
a writing rubric. The writing rubric will serve as a guide to an instructor on what areas
must be evaluated on a Soldier’s paper. Instructors will also meet on a regular basis
to review how to use the rubrics and conduct norming sessions to ensure they are
scoring written assignments accurately.

Soldiers attending NCOES will also be given a rubric or job-aid in advance so that
they know what areas to focus on in their writing. More information about the writing
program and GPA Evaluations will follow in the coming months.