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NEWS RELEASES 1997-98 :: JUNE 3, 1998


Writing scores in North Carolina public schools are up in grades four and seven, and down slightly at 10th grade. The biggest gain came in seventh-grade, up 7.6 percent, followed by fourth grade, up 3.1 percent. In 10th grade, scores declined 3.7 percent.

The North Carolina Assessment of Writing was administered statewide to all fourth- and seventh-graders on March 3. Results show 51.7 percent of fourth-graders scored at or above standard (2.5 or higher on the 4.0 scale), compared to 48.6 percent last year. At the seventh-grade, 62.5 percent scored at or above standard, compared to 54.9 percent last year.

The 10th-grade writing test is the English II end-of-course (EOC) test, which, this year, was administered Nov. 6, March 3 and April 7. Student essays are scored on a six-point scale for content, and a three-point, four-domain scale for conventions. In 1997-98, approximately 46 percent of all students who took the test scored at standard, 3.0 (Level III or above). That compares to 49.7 percent at standard in 1996-97. (Previous reports, however, used a reference point of 3.5.)

State Superintendent Mike Ward said of the results, "Our continuing challenge is to emphasize and focus more on communication skills in the classroom. Whether oral, visual or written, effective communication skills are the result of active learning and frequent use of higher-level thinking skills. The State Board of Education has reaffirmed its belief that writing is a basic skill that must continue to be a priority in every classroom by including it as a major component of The ABCs accountability program. Through good communication skills, including good writing skills, our young people will be competitive in the marketplace and successful in their personal lives."

State Testing Coordinator Mildred Bazemore noted, "While North Carolina schools continue to work diligently in preparing students to meet more rigorous academic standards in reading, writing and mathematics, there are still disparities among students within a classroom, and across ethnic groups and schools, especially in the area of writing."

Females outperformed male students in all three grades. At fourth grade, as a group, Asian students scored highest, followed by Whites, multi-racial, "other," Hispanics, American Indian, and Black students, in that order. In seventh-grade, the order was Whites, Asians, multi-racial, "other," and Hispanics, followed by Blacks and American Indians, both having the same percentage. And in 10th grade, the ranking of highest performance was Whites, Asians, multi-racial, "other," Hispanics, American Indians and Blacks.

At fourth and seventh grades, students receive a simple two- or three-sentence prompt, and their timed response is scored for its main idea, supporting detail, organization and coherence. The scoring scale is as follows: one point - the response exhibits a lack of command of the type of writing tested (narrative, expository or descriptive depending on grade and test year); two points - a weak command; three points - a reasonable command; and four points - a strong command.

This year's fourth-grade prompt was: "One morning you wake up and discover that you are only six inches tall. Write a story about what happens next." The seventh-grade prompt read: "Think about a place where people go to have fun. It can be outdoors, a store, a relative's, or any place where people go. Describe the place so that someone reading your paper could picture it."

The English II writing test, an EOC test, is a state-mandated assessment of student performance at 10th grade that focuses on World Literature other than that of Great Britain and the United States. This marks the seventh year the English II assessment has been given to all English II students. A common prompt is used for each test administration.

For additional information, contact State Testing Coordinator Mildred Bazemore, 919.807.3774. Contact your local testing coordinator or superintendent for local scores

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.