Eighth-grade writing tests up, below state

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- More Newton County middle school students are passing the state-administered writing test but most schools are continuing to score slightly below state averages.

According to preliminary results for 2011 released by the Newton County School System last week, an average of 81 percent of NCSS eighth-grade students met or exceeded state standards -- or passed -- the eighth-grade writing test. The average pass rate for eighth-grade students in the state of Georgia was 82 percent this year.

When students took the test earlier this year, they had 100 minutes to plan, draft and write an informational/expository or persuasive essay responding to their assigned prompt. Students were graded on ideas, organization, style and conventions.

Individually, 79 percent of Clements Middle School students passed the test this year, as did 78 percent of students at Cousins, 84 at Indian Creek and Liberty, 81 percent at Veterans Memorial and 64 percent of students at Challenge Charter Academy. Last year, 77 percent of Clements students passed, 76 percent of students at Cousins, 75 at Indian Creek, 80 percent at Liberty and 82 at Veterans Memorial.

"Improvement is always good news," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews, adding that the county overall had improved three percentage points from last year.

Mathews noted that the county as a whole trails state averages in the special education subgroup by 5 percentage points and in the white subgroup by 2 percentage points. NCSS exceeds the state in the Hispanic subgroup by 2 percent and in the black subgroup by 1 percent.

NCSS has increased its performance on the test over the past five years -- only 67 percent of Newton County eighth-graders passed the test in 2007, 76 percent in 2008 and 72 percent in 2009.

Students don't have to pass the eighth-grade writing assessment to move to the next grade, but it does show their strengths and weaknesses in the area of writing, officials have said.

Georgia students also take writing tests in third, fifth and 11th grades. The test they take in the 11th grade is part of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, which they must pass in order to receive a diploma from a Georgia high school.