WRITING TESTS SERVE AS A SCREEN - NOT A ROADBLOCK
When the state writing tests were given to 4th and 7th graders in March, some parents and students got the idea that students who did not meet the 2.5 proficiency level on the tests would not be promoted. They thought that the state's new Student Accountability Standards were to blame.
The state standards related to writing at grades 4 and 7 actually are designed to be a screen to determine if students need help with their writing. Promotion decisions are not made based solely on the students' performance on these tests.
The state Student Accountability Standards for grades 3, 5 and 8 are designed to ensure that students whose skills in reading, writing and mathematics are not at the proficient level get the help (called focused intervention) they need to be successful at the next grade. The standards are being phased in, with the standards applying to 5th graders in the coming school year, 2000-01, and to 3rd and 8th graders in 2001-02. Local school systems may have promotion requirements that go beyond those required by the state for grades 3, 5, 8 and graduation.
Since the writing tests are given in grades 4 and 7, they are especially important for the students who will soon be affected by the standards. The state policy requires teachers and principals to use locally developed writing samples with 5th graders in 2000-01 who did not score 2.5 on the writing test to determine if these students have made adequate progress in writing in order to be promoted. Writing will be one indicator that teachers will use to determine if 5th graders should be promoted (and 8th graders when the policy applies to them in 2001-02).
Some local school systems are offering special writing classes and other programs this summer to help students develop their writing skills. Funds for these special programs were provided by the General Assembly in 1999 when they approved funds for improving student performance.
The Student Accountability Standards are central to the state's plan to improve student performance. The Standards ensure that students get help when they need it and meet set standards before they can be promoted or graduate.
For additional information on how students in local school systems are getting help with writing instruction and other skills to meet the standards, call the central office or ask your principal.
The state has a special web site set up on the new standards. Learn more at www.ncpublicschools.org.
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.