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 language. Entries are only accepted from teachers; students may not self-nominate.
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), but as one PDF. When filling out the entry form, you will also be asked to give a title and brief introduction to the work.
- Best Writing – one sample which the student considers their 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.
- 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.
- Title and Submission Description written by the student in present tense. The description should be written so that the review committee clearly understands the importance and purpose of the proposed submission. It should also be written to generate the interest of your intended audience. (Example: My first submission is about my values and reasons for writing. I explored my emotions and fears in this piece. Secondly, I wrote about a young man with Depersonalization Disorder who has a panic attack and relives his personal history with his disorder. This story is about powerful relationships and how they can help people through rough times.) This introduction will be included on the digital entry form and should not be included on the PDF. (We have made this section optional for 2021 and it is included in Tab 3 of the application.)
General Directions for Best and Themed Writing:
- One teacher completes one entry form per student and uploads the student’s “Best” and “Themed” writings as one PDF document. Only teachers/administrators are allowed to submit student work.
- The student’s name and “Best” or “Themed” should appear in the upper left-hand corner of each page. This is important so we can judge each piece accurately! (If you are submitting an arts-based entry like a photo essay or graphic novel, you may adjust this format as long as we can tell which piece is which. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.)
- 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.
- Remember that only excerpts that are within the six (6) page maximum from research papers, term papers, and novels will be accepted – not the full text.
- Late entries will not be accepted.
- The Themed piece should be written from the students’ personal voice and perspective. Take care to not make it sound like a school assignment! The judges want to see your creativity and personality in the piece.
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. Writings are judged holistically on content, purpose, audience, tone, word choice, organization, development, and style.
If you are interested in signing up to judge, please email email@example.com.
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 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 nontraditional
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 receive a Superior Writing certificate which is provided to the nominating teacher to present to the receiving student. In addition, their name and school’s name appear on the NCTE website. All nominated students receive a Recognition certificate which is provided to the nominating teacher to present to the student.
The recipients of the Certificate of Superior Writing for 2021 are listed by state below.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021 Award Winners
This year, 284 students were nominated. Of that number, 136 received Certificates for Superior Writing and 148 received Certificates of Nomination. Each student submitted two pieces of writing, which were read by national judges. Papers were judged on content, purpose, audience, tone, word choice, organization, development, and style.
2020 Award Winners
This year, 370 students were nominated. Of that number, 137 received Certificates for Superior Writing and 233 received Certificates of Nomination. Each student submitted two pieces of writing, which were read by national judges. Papers were judged on content, purpose, audience, tone, word choice, organization, development, and style.
2019 Award Winners
This year, 416 students were nominated. Of that number, 210 received Certificates for Superior Writing and 206 received Certificates of Nomination. Each student submitted two pieces of writing, which were read by national judges. Papers were judged on content, purpose, audience, tone, word choice, organization, development, and style.
2018 Award Winners
This year, 461 juniors were nominated. Of that number, 226 received Certificates for Superior Writing and 235 received Certificates of Nomination. Each student submitted two pieces of writing, which were read by national judges. Papers were judged on expression of ideas, language use and unique perspective and voice.