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Fifth-graders to take writing test

CONYERS - Rockdale County Public Schools wants all of its fifth-grade students to be at school on time Wednesday morning.

All fifth-grade students will take a state writing test Wednesday morning at their respective schools.

Leslie DeMarco, director of curriculum at RCPS, said the test is similar to the one taken in third grade, but this is the first test they will take that is reported to the state.

"It doesn't figure into (Adequate Yearly Progress), but it's part of the overall picture of how students are functioning," she said. "They don't have to pass it to go on to the next grade, so it doesn't directly impact them, but we know that if their writing skills are poor, then their reading skills are lacking, too."

She said teachers will use their scores to see what areas students need help in and to know if the teachers need to change their teaching methods.

Students taking the writing test will be assessed in four categories: ideas, organization, style and convention, which are the same areas in which the other grade levels are tested.

"Ideas is weighted most heavily, with 40 percent; the others (account for) 20 percent (apiece)," DeMarco said.

The exam will give students one of three types of writing topics to choose from, which they will not know ahead of time - narrative, persuasive or expository. In eighth grade, students only will be given persuasive or expository topics.

DeMarco said the school system's goal this year is to increase fifth-grade writing scores by at least 11 percentage points.

Last school year, 74 percent of RCPS fifth-grade students who took the test received a "meets or exceeds standards" result on the test. The state percentage was 70.

"An increase of 11 percentage points is an ambitious goal, but we believe our students' and teachers' hard work will pay off," she said.

The school system gave the fifth-graders a practice assessment in October, and DeMarco said individual schools may have given additional practice writing tests throughout the school year.

"They practice all year," she said.

DeMarco also suggests parents visit the Georgia Department of Education Web site to look at sample writing tests for their children.

She said students can do well on the test by getting a good rest the night before, eating a good breakfast and taking the 120-minute test seriously.

She said parents also need to do their part by getting their students to school on time.

"Elementary school students eat lunch early, so this test will start early, although it is up to each school what time it starts," DeMarco said. "It's a group effort."

Students who are late to school or who are absent Wednesday will be allowed to make up the test Thursday.

"After (Thursday), there is no make-up," DeMarco said. "We want everybody there so we can get the information on all of our students."

Test proctors will provide paper to the students, but DeMarco said students need to bring two blue- or black-ink pens or pencils to the exam.

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

SideBar: At A Glance

What: Fifth-Grade Writing Assessment

When: Wednesday morning, make-up on Thursday

Where: At the students' respective schools

What to bring: Two blue or black ink pens or pencils