Writing Assignments For Low‐Income, Multi-Ethnic Students

Jessica Singer Early and Meredith DeCosta Smith’s paper “Making a Case for College: A Genre-Based College Admission Essay Intervention for Underserved High School Students” illustrates that it is possible to provide the necessary instruction to low‐income, multi-ethnic students to support their practice for improving writing assignments. The research was presented in the Journal of Writing Research in 2011 (vol. 2, pp. 299-329) and tried to contribute to attempts to find successful writing teaching techniques. The authors underline the need to adopt scientifically proven teaching approaches and curricula in teaching low-income pupils in public schools (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). However, this research was faced with several limitations for several reasons, leaving the outcomes ambiguous and in need of further clarification.

The relevance of the issue is hard to doubt, since the majority of US schools and universities need college admissions essays as part of the application process, which contains various elements and necessitates proper writing abilities. Whether it is a personal test or a section of the SAT, students must swiftly create and convey concepts in an academic manner (Viro & Joutsenlahti, 2018). Unfortunately, many of these sorts of essays, as well as the abilities required to master them, are frequently left out of secondary school curricula (Lewis Jr & Yates, 2019). As a result, students have to conduct their own writing training (Ly et al., 2020). Low-income and ethnically diverse pupils are frequently sent to less academically demanding English classes (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). Consequently, they face challenges as they transition from high school to college.

The initial premises of the research were made clear by the authors, and there are few opacities regarding purpose, methodology, and statements made. The main goal of the authors was to use a quasi-experimental sample comparison to examine the impact of a feature-based method of teaching college applications essay writing on diverse, high school pupils (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). The writers focused on two primary concerns as the most important variables. These are the quality of the college applications essay and the self-efficacy of the writer (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). The outcomes of this study try to explain and justify the usage of a feature-based genre curricular approach to generating college applications essays that are relevant to the highlighted strata of the population. In this regard, the main focus of the paper is low-income, multilingual high school pupils.

The absence of empirical research on this issue was the primary motivation for doing this study. Secondary writing study investigating the impact of a feature-based curricular approach to teaching college entrance essay writing for underprivileged transnational high school students is an issue in academia that is highly under-researched. Within this, the research is built on two theoretical assumptions – genre theory and the concept of self-efficacy writing (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). The authors used this framework to build a six-week essay writing program based on many characteristics of outstanding college entrance essays (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). It is critical to emphasize the study’s location among the specified segments of the population. Hispanic (40%), Caucasian (42%), Native American (10%), African American (4%), and Asian (2%) pupils make up the study school’s demographics (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). Even though the theoretical settings could be expanded further (including different study variables, cognitive theories, etc.), the lack of empirical research makes the study relevant and, to some extent, innovative.

The underlying assumption of outcomes analysis, however, needs clarification. Before completing the research, the rubric essay scores were examined using ANCOVA. The response variable is compared against a factor and a continuous independent variable (Wang et al., 2019). The participants’ treatment or comparison group was the cross-subject component, the covariance was a pretest of typed essays, and the outcome measure was another round of essays typed under the same rubric (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). The authors’ attempt to continue it may be judged as reasonable because the essay pretest scores matched the standard requirements for their inclusion as variables in ANCOVA. Despite a few small inconsistencies with ANCOVA’s assumptions, the estimate was determined to be fundamentally credible. The choice of ANCOVA in this setting is justified, even though several limitations were faced and minor violations were conducted during the assessment.

It is important to mention that an attempt was made to use ANOVA to simultaneously assess student replies to writing efficiency questions. However, due to mismatched sample sizes, ANOVA, which is essentially a statistical test for identifying means of equality and difference, was difficult to utilize in this study (Breitsohl, 2019). The comparison group had a little variation, as the authors concede, and the adjustment was insufficient to remain objective in the estimations. The underlying principle of ANOVA is that balanced data is easier to analyze, but unbalanced data requires more investigation (Roche et al., 2020). The analysis of the datasets proved difficult in this study, and the method’s significant constraints led authors to biases and lack of definitive conclusions, which predetermined reliance of ANCOVA as a primary method. Furthermore, because there were only two alternatives, no follow-up testing or further studies using ANOVA were feasible (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). The reliance on ANCOVA instead of ANOVA seems to be justified here due to the study’s settings and the initial authors’ assumption that statistical analysis through ANOVA is facing severe violations in the process.

Concluding, we can observe how the study’s results reveal that in the treatment group, the quality of the specific aspects of the college applications essay increased dramatically (Early & DeCosta-Smith, 2011). Moreover, learning to write well in a particularly genuine, high-stakes genre has been shown to increase high school pupils’ confidence in themselves as writers (Lewis Jr & Yates, 2019). The objectivity of the experiment is, however, hard to verify due to a number of factors. There are several shortcomings of this research that should be highlighted and addressed in future research. For instance, randomization would expand confidence in the findings. Future research with participants from various schools will be required to demonstrate that the findings are generalizable. A severe drawback can also be observed in the very limited number of participants. Furthermore, it is vital to highlight that improvements in writing college admissions essays and writing self-efficacy for this study might be simply the product of unrecorded methods or unintentional learning.

Notwithstanding, it is important to keep in mind that this research became the first into a genre-based curricular approach to college essay writing. This implies that this issue should be investigated more in the future as a potentially promising practice in secondary schools that cater to low-income pupils. The authors acknowledge their limitations, possible biases, and unreliability of possible ANOVA usage. The observations of the research are important for the fields of the different spectrum and can be developed and utilized in a number of settings. The future of this study, emphasized by the authors, facilitates further research. According to the authors, transferring research into practice can be facilitated by employing a curriculum that also allows for flexibility to suit changing student requirements. The findings, settings, and assumptions of this study, however, highlight the necessity of developing writing genres like college entrance essays, particularly for low-income, multicultural high school pupils.


Breitsohl, H. (2019). Beyond ANOVA: An introduction to structural equation models for experimental designs. Organizational Research Methods, 22(3), 649-677.

Early, J. S., & DeCosta-Smith, M. (2011). Making a case for college: A genre-based college admission essay intervention for underserved high school students. Journal of Writing Research, 2(3), 299-329.

Lewis Jr, N. A., & Yates, J. F. (2019). Preparing disadvantaged students for success in college: Lessons learned from the preparation initiative. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(1), 54-59.

Ly, S. T., Maurin, E., & Riegert, A. (2020). A pleasure that hurts: The ambiguous effects of elite tutoring on underprivileged high school students. Journal of Labor Economics, 38(2), 501-533.

Roche, R., Manzi, J., Ndubuizu, T., & Baker, S. (2020). Self-efficacy as an indicator for success in a premedical curriculum for underrepresented minority high school students. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 7(4), 212-238.

Viro, E., & Joutsenlahti, J. (2018). The start project competition from the perspective of Mathematics and academic literacy. Education Sciences, 8(2), 67.

Wang, B., Ogburn, E. L., & Rosenblum, M. (2019). Analysis of covariance in randomized trials: More precision and valid confidence intervals, without model assumptions. Biometrics, 75(4), 1391-1400.