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Students to take writing tests

COVINGTON - Newton County middle school students should be ready to write Wednesday morning when they arrive at school.

Eighth-grade students will take the state writing test starting between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Wednesday at their respective middle schools. And, while eighth-grade students are taking that test, sixth- and seventh-grade students will take a practice writing test.

"The middle schools will all be in testing mode," said Adria Griffin, middle school curriculum director for the Newton County School System.

The practice writing test will be "exactly like the one the eighth-graders will take, but they will have a different writing topic," she said.

Griffin said the eighth-grade writing test is "basically the same" as the writing tests students take in third and fifth grade.

"Students will be given a topic and the choice to write an essay in either a persuasive or expository format," she said. "They will have a maximum of 100 minutes to write their essay, unless extra time is specified in the Individual Education Plans of students with disabilities or in a Section 504 Plan for students who need special accommodations."

Students taking the writing test will be assessed in four categories: organization, style, convention and ideas, which is the most heavily weighted.

While the eighth-grade writing test isn't used to determine if students will continue to high school, nor is it counted as part of their grades, the test prepares students for the 11th-grade Georgia High School Graduation Writing Test, which they must pass to graduate high school. It also could determine their future class schedules.

"Students should take all state-mandated testing seriously, because they are put into remediation or enrichment classes based on their scores," Griffin said. "If a student does poorly on one of these tests, yet really knows the material or has mastered the skill, he or she may be put into a class to get extra help when he or she doesn't need it."

When students receive their scores in March or early April, they will be evaluated on whether they meet, do not meet or exceed standards.

For the 2006-07 school year, 66 percent of NCSS eighth-grade students who took the writing test received a meets or exceeds standards result. The state-wide result was 67 percent.

"While we were right there with the state last year, this year we want that percentage to be higher, and we want to surpass the state score," Griffin said.

She said the first steps for students to do well on the test are getting a good night's rest and eating a good breakfast.

"This isn't a test that can be studied for," she said. "It is a test that students have been preparing for in all their years of schooling."

She said parents can help their students by encouraging them to do their best on the test.

Test proctors will provide paper, but students need to bring a pencil and a black-ink pen to take the test.

Students who miss the test Wednesday can only make it up on Thursday.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

· What: Eighth-grade writing assessment

· When: Wednesday morning, makeup on Thursday

· Where: At the students' respective schools

· What to bring: Pencil and black-ink pen (paper will be provided)

*Sixth- and seventh-grade students will take a practice writing test during the same time.