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Writing Gateways

Frequently Asked Questions

Proficiency in writing is part of the North Carolina Student Accountability Standards. The purpose of this brochure is to respond to questions and concerns about the Gateways for Writing in Grades 5 and 8. Gateways are points at which students must demonstrate proficiency in writing according to state standards in order to be promoted to the next grade level. In addition to state standards, students are responsible for meeting local promotion requirements.

The new standards for Grade 5 will go into effect during the 2000-2001 school year (for students who took the Grade 4 writing assessment in 1999-2000). The new standards for Grade 8 will take effect the following year, 2001-2002 (for students who will take the Grade 7 writing assessment in 2000-2001).


What role do the state-wide writing assessments play in the Gateways?

Students demonstrate proficiency in writing by scoring a 2.5 or higher on a 4-point focused holistic scale for the Grades 4 and 7 writing assessments. For more information about the writing assessments and the scoring criteria, please review the writing information.


Do the writing gateways apply to students with disabilities/students with limited English proficiency?

The Student Accountability Standards do apply to exceptional children and to students with limited English proficiency. Students with disabilities may be exempted from the standards by the Individual Education Program Team, if it is determined that the students do not have the ability to participate in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. For students in grades 3 through 8 with limited English proficiency who are exempt from statewide testing due to the language barrier, a portfolio may be used to document students' progress and English language proficiency.


What happens if a student does not achieve a 2.5 on the writing assessment?

State Board of Education policy requires that the student be given focused intervention and assistance to enhance writing skills. Principals, teachers, and parents should work together to provide opportunities and to support the student's developing skills. To be promoted, a student must demonstrate "adequate progress" in writing by the end of 5th and 8th grades. To view a chart of the Intervention Cycle click here.


What if the student does well all year long but performs poorly on the state writing assessment?

Local agency plans may have provisions for determining whether a student's poor performance on the test was the result of extenuating circumstances. Again, State Board of Education policy does require that the student be given focused intervention and assistance to enhance writing skills. A student who performs well on out-of-class assignments may still need some additional assistance in mastering on-demand, timed writing tasks. Additionally, students must be able to write in different contexts. For example, a student who writes strong creative pieces may need help with developing organized support for an expository piece.


Will the student be required to retake the state writing assessment?

The state will not administer a second assessment in writing. Local education agencies are responsible for developing a plan for schools to determine if a student has made "adequate progress" to be promoted to the next grade. Local plans may include provisions for on-demand as well as process writing as part of a student's portfolio to demonstrate overall progress in writing.


Since the state assessment is on-demand writing, should students focus entirely on this kind of writing?

On-demand writing is one component of strong writing program, which should also include a variety of approaches and assignments to enhance a student's writing skills. While students may need additional assistance in planning and time management specifically related to on-demand writing, they also should be practicing these skills in assignments that focus on process writing and are not time limited. Additionally, students who have difficulty with on-demand writing may need general tips for test taking.


Does the student need to demonstrate adequate progress in the specific mode of writing assessed by the state or in writing overall?

State Board of Education policy does not specify a particular mode of writing on which a student's progress is to be judged. Common to all modes and consistent through all levels of writing assessment in North Carolina, the four criteria of Main Idea, Supporting Detail, Organization, and Coherence are the foundations of effective writing. No student should focus solely on one mode or one type of writing, but rather the development of the writing skills reflected in the scoring criteria. This strategy allows for students who have not scored at the proficient level on the Grades 4 or 7 writing assessments to receive instruction in the Grade 5 or 8 curriculum while improving the same skills taught and assessed at the previous grade. However, the mode and type of writing used to determine a student's adequate progress remains a local decision.


Must the student be placed in a separate "remediation" class?

No. Students who did not demonstrate proficiency on the state writing assessment may receive intervention and assistance within a regular classroom, through a variety of instructional strategies.


What might the intervention strategies look like?

Based on local agency policies, individual schools and teachers will determine the plan of instruction that best meets students' needs. Along with parental involvement, strategies may include but are not limited to alternative learning models, smaller classes, tutorial sessions, and/or modified instructional programs.

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North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
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Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: 919-807-3300

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