How do you know when a student has turned in a good essay? It can be tempting to answer this question as former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said in describing obscenity: I know it when I see it. But educators need a more concrete definition they can apply consistently across all subject areas.

For Patti West-Smith, the answer is simple: Does the piece of writing do its job?

“There’s no magic prescription for that,” said West-Smith, a former teacher, principal, and instructional supervisor who now heads the curriculum team at...

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  • About the Author:

    Dennis Pierce is a freelance writer with 20 years of experience covering education and technology. Follow him on Twitter: @denniswpierce.