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NEWS RELEASES 2007-08 :: JUNE 5, 2008


North Carolina students' writing test scores improved in the 2007-08 school year, according to the preliminary report on the results of the North Carolina General Writing Assessment at Grades 4, 7 and 10.

Results showed that 59.8 percent of fourth graders scored proficient in writing in 2007-08, up from 52.7 percent the previous year. For seventh graders, the percent proficient was 58.3 percent in 2007-08, an improvement from the prior year's results of 50.8 percent.

Tenth graders improved more than the other grades with a proficiency rate of 72.3 percent – up from 51.4 percent last year.

This year's results show the continued improvement in writing performance over time. North Carolina has emphasized writing as an important component of the state's school and student accountability system since the 1983-84 school year, the first year North Carolina measured student writing. Since that time, others have begun to include writing assessments in their measures. For example, The College Board began including writing as part of the SAT, the college admissions test taken by most North Carolina students. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) also includes a writing assessment.

"Being a good writer involves many of the most important academic skills – reading, synthesizing information, solving problems, and expressing and supporting new ideas," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Writing is one of the most important skills that students master and also is one of the most labor-intensive to assess. There is never only one correct answer to a writing test question."

The current writing assessments are the result of efforts in 2001 to improve the writing assessment program and to refine scoring methods to reflect the ideas of classroom teachers and others. The Writing Assessment Task Force (2001) and State Board of Education Ad Hoc Writing Committee (2002) provided important recommendations that are reflected in the tests students have taken over the past five years.

This year, the State Board of Education is considering sweeping changes to the state's testing and accountability system, including the writing program. A proposal being considered by the Board would change the current approach to writing assessment beginning in 2008-09. To elevate the importance of writing throughout the curriculum, the current 4th, 7th, and 10th grade writing assessments would eventually be replaced with a K-12 writing assessment system that includes authentic and on demand writing assignments appropriate to each grade level. The Department of Public Instruction will provide standards for local school districts to use in assessing these K-12 writing assignments. Writing samples would be housed and scored locally, allowing for more direct feedback to the student writers, more in keeping with the writing process.

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said that the Board believes writing is essential to a student's development. "Good writers are good thinkers and are able to succeed in a variety of subjects and disciplines. Writing is a timeless skill that is developed best when student writers work directly with good writing teachers and with readers of their work."

The writing assessments taken in the 2007-08 school year are important indicators for local teachers and administrators to use in evaluating their students' learning and development. Writing scores are used in a number of ways. They are included in calculating each school's performance rating under the state's ABCs of Public Education accountability system. The 10th grade assessment is included in federal Adequate Yearly Progres (AYP) calculations in conjunction with each student's performance on the English I end-of-course test.

On the assessments, students were 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 earned 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.

Students at each grade level were asked to focus on a different type of writing, as described below.

  • Grade 4: Extended narrative response (personal or imaginative)
  • Grade 7: Extended argumentative response (problem/solution or evaluative)
  • Grade 10: Extended informational responses (cause/effect or definition)

The full report of the 2007-08 writing assessment results is available online at

For more information, please contact the NCDPI Communication 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.