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NEWS RELEASES 2004-05 :: JUNE 17, 2005


More fourth and seventh graders are proficient in writing, according to the 2004-05 Preliminary Report of Student Performance on the North Carolina Writing Assessments released today by the Department of Public Instruction. At the 10th grade level, student performance dipped from last year.

Fourth grade results showed 49.3 percent of students scored proficient, an improvement from 2003-04 when 38.7 percent scored at this level. A total of 46.7 percent of seventh graders scored proficient, also an increase from 2003-04 when the percent proficient was 45.6.

At the 10th grade level, 47.8 percent of students scored proficient in 2004-05. The percent proficient in 2003-04 was 52.5 percent.

"Writing is an essential skill for success," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee. "North Carolina students and teachers are making progress in this key area, and we expect that a positive trendline will continue for our students in future years. The State Board of Education continues to support writing assessments because this skill is an important part of a strong academic foundation."

At each grade level, girls scored proficient at a higher rate than boys. Asian and white students were more likely to score proficient than students in other racial categories.

North Carolina has given writing assessments since the 1983-84 school year. The current assessments are the result of efforts in 2001 to improve the writing assessment program and to refine the scoring methods to reflect the recommendations of the Writing Assessment Task Force (2001), the recommendations of the SBE Ad Hoc Writing Committee (2002), and the revisions to the English/language arts curriculum adopted by the State Board of Education in 1999. This is the third year that the assessments have been in their present form and used the current scoring model.

The writing assessments are important indicators for local teachers and administrators to use in evaluating student performance. Writing results currently are not included in calculating each school's performance rating under the state's ABCs of Public Education accountability system. The 10th grade assessment results are included in federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) calculations in conjunction with each student's performance on the English I end-of-course test. Use of the 10th grade writing assessment for AYP calculations at the high school level was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in March 2005.

On the assessments, students are asked to respond in writing to a specific prompt. Students in grades four and seven receive 75 minutes in which to respond; students in 10th grade receive 100 minutes. Students earn scores based on the content of their responses as well as on their use of correct sentence formation, usage, mechanics and spelling. Students earn scores that range from a minimum of four and a maximum of 20. Each student essay is scored by two independent readers.

In order to be considered proficient, students must earn a score of 12 or above. Scores on the writing assessments are reported according to the following achievement levels: Level I, 4-7; Level II, 8-11; Level III, 12-16; Level IV, 17-20.

Students at each grade level are asked to focus on a different type of writing. The prompts used at each grade level are developed, revised, and reviewed by teachers and other educators and are field-tested with students before being used in an operational assessment. This year's writing types and prompts are below:

Grade 4: Extended narrative response (personal or imaginative)
"Imagine you were walking outside and you saw a huge tree. When you got closer, you noticed that there was a small door in the side of the tree. You opened the door. Write a story about what happened the time you saw a huge tree and opened the door."

Grade 7: Extended argumentative response (problem/solution or evaluative)
"At the end of every school year, your principal chooses one way the school could be improved. Your principal bases the choice on recommendations from students. This year, students have proposed the following improvements:
• an outdoor lunch area
• new sports equipment for the gym
• laptop computers for student checkout
Write a letter to your principal justifying which improvement would be best in your school."

Grade 10: Extended information response (definition, cause/effect or problem/solution)
"Write an article for a school newspaper about the meaning of individuality as it relates to being a member of a group. You may use the following information, your own experiences, observations, and/or readings."

(The following quotations were provided as part of the prompt.)
Individuality: 1. The quality of being individual: distinctiveness. 2. The aggregate* of qualities and characteristics that distinguish one from others.
Source: Websters II New College Dictionary

To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.
Source: Confucius

It is not worth an intelligent man's time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
Source: G.H. Hardy

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.
Source: Janis Joplin

The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.
Source: M. Scott Peck

The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which makes you lonely.
Source: Lorraine Hansberry

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
Source: Voltaire

* aggregate: whole sum or amount

For more information about the writing assessments, please contact DPI's Communications Division, 919.807.3450.

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Preliminary Report of Student Performance on the North Carolina Writing Assessments, Grades 4, 7 and 10, 2004-05 (including local district results) (pdf, 5.7mb)

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.