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Achievement Awards

Achievement Awards in Writing

Welcome to the Achievement Awards in Writing! 

 2018 Themed Writing Prompt:

   Changing the Narrative


In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor (b. 1930) became the first woman to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. In her lifetime, O’Connor has often been viewed as an agent of change, one who ushered in an era when women could hold top leadership roles and when landmark decisions were made based on her swing vote.

Yet, while many people view O’Connor as a singular agent of change, she downplayed her singular role. In a famous quote, she spun her own narrative (or story) differently, saying:  “We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.”

The different readings of O’Connor’s story reflect this year’s contest theme: Changing the Narrative. You will consider how a story changes, has changed, or can change. As different versions of O’Connor’s story suggest, individuals might change the narrative by breaking free from the past or others; by uniting with others; or by seeing or helping others see the story though a different lens or from another perspective. You will create a piece of writing in which the narrative relating to a topic or problem important to you is changed. Express yourself in a form of writing that best suits your personal ideas and explorations, including (but not limited to) short story, personal essay, expository essay, poetry, or drama.

Consider the following points:

  • You may narrow the scope of your perspective to a local (or even a personal) level or widen it to a state, national or global level.

  • One or more of the following questions might help spark or guide your writing: How do people change the narrative? In what ways does the narrative change? How do people spin narratives to produce new ways of reading the original narrative?

  • You can interpret “narrative,” or story, in many ways: Story is not just the material of books, history, and of online binge-watching; story is also what we live--the material of our lives. We live our own stories, and we also live inside larger narratives: of our friends, families, schools, culture, country, and of the world.



Now until November 15: Present the prompt to your students. Encourage them to gather their thoughts and ideas and to write their first draft.

November 15-December 15:
Encourage your students to edit, to revise, and to finalize their drafts.

December 15: Awards link will open to accept submissions.

                                                        DEADLINE for All Submissions: February 1, 2018*

*Late submissions will not be accepted.


Purpose: To encourage high school students to write and to publicly recognize the best student writers. 


Eligibility:  Juniors in the current academic school year are eligible to be nominated by their school's English department. Nominations should be based on whether the writer exhibits the power to inform and move an audience through control of a wide range of the English language. Entries are only accepted from teachers. 

Schools in the United States, Canada, Virgin Islands and American Schools Abroad are eligible to nominate students. Nominating schools must be US accredited.

The number of nominees allowed from each school is determined by the current total enrollment in grades 10, 11, and 12. The enrollment figure used must be from an official administrative report of the current year and must not include ninth-grade students.

Use the following guide for nominations:

Under 500 students        1 nominee
500–999 students           2 nominees
1,000–1,499 students     3 nominees
1,500–1,999 students     4 nominees
2,000–2,499 students     5 nominees
2,500–2,999 students     6 nominees
3,000–3,999 students     7 nominees
4,000 or more students   8 nominees

Award Specifics:  Nominated students must submit two writings (best and themed).

  1. Best Writing - one sample which the student considers her or his best work. The best writing may be in any genre or combination of genres (poetry, narrative, argument, expository). An excerpt from a larger piece of writing by the student is acceptable with a paragraph explaining the piece from which the excerpt was taken. Maximum length for the best writing is six (6) pages. The student's name and "Best" must appear in the upper left-hand corner of each page.

  2. Themed Writing - must be written based on the topic developed by the Achievement Awards Advisory Committee. Maximum length for the theme writing is four (4) pages. The student's name and "Themed" must appear in the upper left-hand corner of each page.

General Directions for Best and Themed Writing:

  • One teacher completes one entry form per student and uploads the student's papers as only one file. The maximum length for the best writing is six (6) pages; the maximum length for the themed writing is four (4) pages. Total of ten (10) pages.
  • The student's name and "Best" or "Theme" must appear in the upper left-hand corner of each page.
  • The page number must appear in the upper right-hand corner of each page.
  • The school's name must not appear on the paper or within the body of writing.
  • Please use legible type - no smaller than 11 or 12 point.
  • Double space with one inch margins on all sides. This does not apply to poetry.
  • Research papers, term papers, and novels will not be accepted.
  • Late entries will not be accepted.

Judging:  Teams of teachers across the nation will judge entries using a secure judging site. Entries with top scores will be selected for the superior writing award.

Below are the guidelines by which your writing will be evaluated by the NCTE judges. Keep these guidelines in mind as you draft and revise:

1. Expression of Ideas

  • Writing suggests/ conveys meanings; reflects strong thinking

  • Thematic meaning(s) effectively controlled

  • Themed writing responds to the stated prompt

  • Piece is unified, and builds upon itself, even if the structure is untraditional

  • Sense of clarity of purpose, completeness, and closure

2.  Language Use

  • Writing style appropriate to content and genre

  • Writing reflects mastery of technical aspects of writing (e.g., control over punctuation and syntax)

  • Writer uses language powerfully, via apt/ original word choice, unique phrasing

  • Strong flow produced via syntactical control and variation

  • Writer effectively employs detail, evocative language, and/or imagery to enliven writing and to express ideas

3. Unique Perspective and Voice

  • Uniqueness of writer is evident through stylistic choices

  • Writing conveys unique, authentic, original perspective

  • Style conveys unique, authentic, original voice

Awards:  Results are announced in May. Students judged for superior writing are awarded a superior writing certificate and letter which are provided to the nominating teacher to present to the winning student. In addition, their name and school's name appear on the NCTE website. All nominated students receive a recognition certificate and letter which are provided to the nominating teacher to present to the student.

*Late entries can not be considered.

2017 Achievement Awards for Superior Writing 

2016 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
2015 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
2014 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
2013 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
2012 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
2011 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
2010 Achievement Awards Students Receiving Certificates for Superior Writing
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