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Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts/MATELA
An affiliate of NCTE National Council of Teachers of English 1111W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096
Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts
Accreditation Standards and Significant Writing Classrooms

Dear School District Official:

In each Montana school district, officials and boards face the sometimes daunting task of drafting their own policies that address the requirements of new or revised Accreditation Standards.   This year, Montana school districts will also look for ways to implement the Montana Common Core Standards. 

The Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts (MATELA) has conducted extensive research regarding the theory and practice of effective writing programs, and members of our organization have also participated in the creation and review of the Montana Core Standards. 


Because of our collective expertise, MATELA would like to assist your district in drafting a policy that will serve two purposes:

  • the unique needs of your district and your students,
  • the requirements of  the Accreditation Standard below and the Montana Core Standards that place increased attention on writing instruction, on writing as a complex process, on writing as a critical component of literacy, and on writing as a tool for learning.

MATELA offers the following description of a significant writing program:

  • Explicit writing instruction is part of the course content as a significant, recurring activity;
  • Students use writing as a tool for learning and understanding course content;
  • Students develop information literacy by finding, evaluating, and using information effectively;
  • Students formulate and express opinions and ideas in writing;
  • Students learn to write in forms and for purposes and audiences typical of disciplines and professions in ways that are clearly separate from foundational skills courses;
  • Students receive constructive responses to their writing, with feedback explicitly directed at improving the quality of their writing;
  • Students revise formal documents as part of the process of writing;
  • A significant portion (at least 50%) of the course grade depends on the quality and content of written assignments, which teachers evaluate according to explicit criteria.

When districts designate a course or program as significant in its writing component, MATELA also recommends that they not only limit class size to a maximum of 20 students but also abide by the provisions of 10.55.713, the Board of Public Education's maximum load of 100 students for teachers with a significant writing program.

In developing literacy in any content area, writing tasks may consist of formal and informal, graded and ungraded, and in-class or out-of-class exercises.  The range of possible writing tasks include journal entries, case studies, blogs, e-portfolios, hypertext, lab reports, free writing, annotated bibliographies, essays, analyses, proposals, abstracts, reviews, field notes, electronic postings, research papers, or proofs.

If MATELA can be of additional assistance to you or to your school district as you move forward in this important work, please contact us.


Donna L. Miller

Donna L. Miller, PhD
MATELA President


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