Fifth-graders set to take writing test

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System wants its fifth-grade students to be at school ready to write Wednesday.

All fifth-graders will take a state writing test Wednesday morning at their respective schools in their individual classrooms.

Fifth-grade teachers in Newton County said the test is similar to the one students took in third grade.

"The third-grade test is like a practice for (the fifth-grade) test," said Holly Johnston, a fifth-grade teacher at East Newton Elementary School.

Unlike the third-grade test, the test students take Wednesday will be reported to the state, but it isn't figured into Adequate Yearly Progress or used for a class grade.

"We use (the scores) mainly for improvement," Johnston said. "We try to see how students improve over the years. (The scores) are put on their permanent record, and they also have a portfolio with writing samples they take with them from grade to grade."

The fifth-grade test prepares students for the eighth-grade writing test, which is followed by the 11th-grade Georgia High School Graduation Test that all students must pass to graduate high school.

On Wednesday, students will be assessed in four categories: ideas, organization, style and convention, the same areas in which the other grade levels are tested.

The test prompt will give students one of three types of writing genres to choose from, which they will not know ahead of time - narrative, persuasive or expository. In eighth grade, the next grade level in which students will be tested, students will be given only persuasive or expository topics.

Teachers said students have been practicing for the test all year by writing on the genres that will be on the test and taking practice tests.

"They've done prompt writing for many months, and every week since November, we've had a writing workshop daily," said Mary Catherine Whisnant, a fifth-grade teacher at Middle Ridge Elementary School.

Although students practice writing during the school day, teachers suggest parents go over writing samples with their students and encourage them to remember what they learned in class.

"Parents should remind (the students) to be organized, think of good ideas and to go back over their work," especially focusing on capitalization usage, punctuation and spelling, Johnston said.

Parents also can visit the Georgia Department of Education Web site to look at sample writing tests for their children.

Of course, Whisnant said, parents can help their students do well on the 120-minute test by getting them to bed on time or early and having them eat a good breakfast at home or at school.

Students who are late for the test, which starts at most schools Wednesday morning, or who are absent Wednesday, will be allowed to make up the test Thursday. After Thursday, no other make-up day is scheduled for the test.

Test proctors will provide paper, pens and pencils to the students.

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