Case Study: Empowering 5th Grade Students at Russell Elementary School

case study
Amy Materne's class


Amy Materne, a 5th Grade Gifted Teacher at Russell Elementary School, faced several challenges in her writing instruction and student writing output. These challenges prompted her to join Simplify Writing®, a program designed to address the issues of inconsistency, lack of alignment, and low student engagement. This case study explores the problems Amy encountered, her involvement in the Writing Task Force, and the positive outcomes achieved through the implementation of Simplify Writing®.

Amy identified two primary issues affecting the writing instruction at Russell Elementary School. Firstly, there was a lack of consistency and fluidity in writing instruction across different grade levels. Each teacher paced, planned, and taught writing units differently, leading to fragmented learning experiences and wasted time when students transitioned to the next grade. This lack of alignment and accountability hindered students' progress in mastering writing standards.

Secondly, students expressed disinterest and frustration with the writing lessons. They found them boring, hard to understand, and too time-consuming. Consequently, student writing output lacked complexity, organization, basic conventions, elaboration, and focus. These deficiencies became evident when analyzing the students' performance on the Georgia Milestones Assessment, where writing scores fell significantly behind their reading scores. The need for a change in the writing instruction was apparent to ensure students' success in the ELA section of the assessment.


To address the writing challenges, Amy spearheaded the formation of a Writing Task Force. As the leader of the group, she selected a team comprising teachers from various grade levels. The initial meeting focused on understanding each grade level's concerns and establishing a plan for alignment and accountability. The first step was to choose a cohesive writing program, and they landed on Simplify Writing®. The Task Force aimed to leverage Simplify Writing's resources to create a cohesive writing curriculum for the entire school, and implement it consistently across all grades. By doing so, the team sought to improve students' writing skills and foster a love for writing.


Measurement of Growth: The Writing Task Force employed multiple methods to measure growth in students' writing skills. First, they utilized common formative assessments (CFAs) to assess students' progress on specific writing standards regularly. By breaking down the lessons into smaller assessments, the team could identify students in need of additional interventions and track their improvement over time.

Additionally, the Task Force analyzed the results of the most recent Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS). The data revealed remarkable growth in writing performance. In the fifth grade alone, 72% of the students passed the ELA section, with 50% achieving scores of 3 or 4. These scores represented the highest achievement levels seen in years at Russell Elementary School. Furthermore, in Amy's class, nearly half of her students attained perfect scores on the writing section, while the majority of the remaining students missed it by only 1 or 2 points. These exceptional outcomes demonstrated the effectiveness of the Simplify Writing program and its positive impact on student writing growth.


Amy Materne's participation in Simplify Writing® and her leadership in the Writing Task Force brought about significant improvements in writing instruction and student writing output at Russell Elementary School. By addressing issues of inconsistency and lack of alignment, the Task Force successfully implemented a cohesive writing curriculum across grade levels. The engagement and interest of the students increased, resulting in substantial growth in writing skills as evidenced by improved assessment scores. The case study of Amy Materne and the successful implementation of Simplify Writing serves as a testament to the program's effectiveness in enhancing writing instruction and fostering students' love for writing.

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