Larger percentage of high schoolers pass state writing test

A larger percentage of students statewide passed the Georgia High School Writing Test this year, with 93 percent meeting or exceeding standards, according to results released Wednesday.

It is an increase from the 91 percent passing in 2011 and 88 percent in 2007, the year the test was introduced.

Progress was also made in closing the achievement gap between minority and white students and between special education students and the 11th grade as a whole.

Black students made a three percentage-point gain from last year to 90 percent passing, which closed the achievement gap between white students 4 percentage points, to 6 percentage points. The improvement was larger than the white students’ gain of 1 percentage point, to 96 percent passing.

Although the results give an insight into student achievement statewide, district and school-level results will not be available until later in the year.

Cross Creek High School Principal Jason Moore said writing is a skill local high schools try to incorporate into students’ everyday classwork across all subjects.

From science lab reports to social studies essays, the training for writing begins in ninth grade and intensifies as students prepare to take the writing test in 11th grade.

“The literacy piece is such a vital part of what we’re doing,” Moore said. “It doesn’t just start in 11th grade. You can’t wait until 11th grade and expect a student to be proficient.”

Teachers use diagnostics to determine where students need improvement and use writing interventions. The goal is to provoke a steady improvement in scores, which Moore said he is hopeful to see in the 2012 tests.

Students must pass the writing test to receive a high school diploma but can take it multiple times in their junior and senior years. The En­glish/language arts, math, science and social studies components of the test were phased out last year, but the writing test is still required for graduation.

Students are now assessed using End of Course Tests, which educators say are a more accurate way of measuring concept mastery.

Other highlights from the state results include a 2 percentage point gain by Hispanic students to 91 percent, which closed the achievement gap with white students by 8 percentage points, to 13 percentage points. The special education achievement gap decreased by 11 percentage points, to 23 percentage points, while 72 percent of those students passed the test.

The average score for all 11th grade first time test takers was 226 out of a possible 350, a two-point gain from last year. Students must score a 200 to pass the test.

 

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