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NEWS RELEASES 2006-07 :: JUNE 8, 2007


More fourth and seventh grade students scored proficient in writing in 2006-07 when compared to student scores from last year, according to the Preliminary Report of Student Performance on the North Carolina General Assessment at grades 4, 7 and 10.

Results showed that 52.7 percent for fourth grade students scored proficient on the assessment, an almost 3 percentage point increase from 2005-06. There has been a steady increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient since the writing test was revised in 2002-03. In the initial year of the test, 38.6 percent of fourth graders were proficient in writing.

Seventh grade results also improved this year, with 50.8 percent of students scoring proficient. That is more than a 4.5 percentage point increase over performance in 2005-06 when 46.2 percent of seventh graders scored proficient. The seventh grade scores have fluctuated since 2002-03, but have demonstrated improvement over time.

Tenth graders showed a small decrease in their scores in 2006-07. A total of 51.4 percent of students were proficient in writing at 10th grade, down from 53.2 percent in 2005-06. Since this assessment was put in place in 2002-03, 10th grade performance had improved every year until this one. The 2002-03 percent proficient was 39.9 percent.

"Students need to have strong writing skills to be competitive in a 21st economy," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee. "We know that there is no perfect writing assessment, but by continuing to focus on this important skill area, we can help ensure that writing instruction is a central component of public education."

State Superintendent June Atkinson noted that The College Board now requires writing as part of the SAT, the college admissions test taken by most North Carolina students. "We believe that North Carolina students have a head start on writing assessments. We have tested this skill as part of our state testing program for many years, reflecting the importance of writing in the learning process."

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 fifth 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 included in calculating each school's performance rating under the state's ABCs of Public Education accountability system although the awarding of financial incentive awards under the ABCs is not affected by the writing assessments. 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.

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 focuses were as follows:

Grade 4: Extended narrative response (personal or imaginative).

Grade 7: Extended argumentative response (problem/solution or evaluative).

Grade 10: Extended informational response (cause/effect or definition).

To read the full report on the preliminary results in writing, please go to (pdf, 681kb).

For more information about the writing assessments, please contact the NCDPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450.

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.