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Writing test set for Wed.

COVINGTON - Next week, high school juniors in Newton County will take the first section of a set of tests that decide if they will graduate next year.

All 11th-grade students in the Newton County School System are scheduled to take the Georgia High School Writing Assessment for the first time Wednesday at their respective schools. Students who previously have failed the test also may retake the assessment during this time.

To receive a high school diploma from a Georgia public school, students must pass the writing test, along with four other sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Other subjects include English/language arts, math, science and social studies, which will be given for the first time to 11th-graders in Newton County on March 22 through 26.

"Students should, as always, practice good testing strategies, get plenty of rest, eat a good breakfast and bring a couple of No. 2 pencils and blue or black ink pens and be ready to write on any persuasive topic," said Carl Skinner, director of testing, research and evaluation at NCSS. "Also, no cell phones, correction fluid, dictionaries or other possible aids should be brought into the testing area."

Similar to writing tests students have taken in third, fifth and eighth grades, the 11th-graders taking the test will have 100 minutes to respond to a persuasive writing prompt. They will be assessed for ideas, organization, style and conventions.

"They should utilize the entire time to complete a thorough pre-plan, draft and final product," Skinner said. "The Georgia Department of Education has excellent information on this and other tests. ... Students should visit the Web site (www.gadoe.org) to view examples and other information."

He also said students are encouraged to practice and grade, or have someone else grade, their practice essays according to the rubric found on the GaDOE Web site.

"This is the best preparation for a student," he said.

Students must score at least a 200 to meet expectations and, therefore, pass the test.

"There is no magic number of paragraphs or words to ensure a passing score," Skinner said. "Students should proof-read their work before submitting their product."

Those who do not pass the test will have the opportunity to take it again on Feb. 24 or 25 and several other times during various parts of the school year before they are scheduled to graduate on time next school year.

Students who miss Wednesday's test have the opportunity to take it on the makeup day Thursday.

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