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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02

NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: JUNE 7, 2002

STATE WRITING TEST SCORES DROP; OFFICIALS SEEK REASONS

Scores on the NC Writing Assessment dropped in 2002 for both grades four and seven, reversing a growth trend that had continued for several years, according to preliminary state results released today by the NC Department of Public Instruction. Students in grades four and seven take a writing assessment each spring.

State education officials are continuing to analyze the writing results to determine the reasons for this year's drop.

In 2002, 46.8 percent of fourth graders scored at grade level or above as compared to 68.8 percent in 2001 and 57.6 percent in 2000. Grade level performance is considered a score of 2.5 or better on a 4-point scale.

Seventh graders' scores did not drop as dramatically, although they did decline. A total of 62.9 percent of seventh graders scored at 2.5 or better. This compares to 73.3 percent in 2001 and 71.9 percent in 2000.

This is the final year that the state's writing assessment will be scored holistically on a four-point scale. Next year, the state writing assessment will be scored using an analytical model that will give students credit for various elements of their response to the writing assignment.

The writing assessment scores for grades four and seven are not included in the calculations that determine which schools' staff members are eligible for bonuses under the state's accountability program. Writing assessment results are included in each school's performance composite, which reflects the percentage of the schools' scores at or above grade level or proficiency.

At the highest end of the writing assessment scores, 2.9 percent of fourth grade students earned scores of 4 or 3.5. Slightly more than 49 percent of students earned a score of 2.0, the most frequently earned score.

For seventh graders, the same percentage - 2.9 -earned scores of 4 or 3.5. Seventh grade scores were clustered around the 2.5 cut-off point for grade level work. A total of 39.9 percent of seventh graders earned a score of 3.0. Slightly more than 20 percent of seventh graders earned 2.5 scores, and 34.2 percent earned scores of 2.0.

This year, fourth graders were asked to write a story about a time when they had a great day at school. The writing assessment instructions reminded students that their stories should have a beginning, middle, and end; to write in complete sentences; to be sure they wrote good paragraphs; and to use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization. A total of 101,554 fourth grade essays were scored this year.

Seventh graders were asked to write an essay about the person that they admire most and why. The writing assessment instructions reminded students to: name the person they admire most; give at least two reasons; write in complete sentences; check to be sure they are writing good paragraphs; and use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization. A total of 101,426 seventh grade essays were scored.

Students at both grades scored relatively well on conventions of grammar, punctuation and syntax. More than three-fourths of seventh graders scored in the top category for use of writing conventions. Slightly over 70 percent of fourth graders scored in the top category.

Writing assessments, by their very nature, are more subjective in quality. For that reason, scorers are carefully trained to grade essays based on a variety of factors, including support for a main idea, the use of details and other qualities. At least two graders score each essay to ensure reliability. Grading is pegged to anchor essays that are written at very specific levels of achievement. Although writing assessment scores sometimes fluctuate within local schools or local school systems from year to year, scores do not generally fluctuate very much when statewide averages are considered.

For more information, please contact Mildred Bazemore, section chief for testing, at 919.807.3774. Please note that NC DPI does not have local scores for release at this time.

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.