Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Holly Fesperman LeeSalisbury PostRowan-Salisbury School System students fell behind their North Carolina peers on this year’s writing test.
But Kannapolis City Schools high school students soared past the state average score.
According to preliminary writing test results released by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, more fourth- and seventh-grade students earned a proficient score statewide this year, but 10th grade scores showed a small decrease.
Results showed that 52.7 percent of the state’s fourth-graders scored proficient on the writing assessment. That’s about 3 percent more than last year.
Fourth-graders in Rowan-Salisbury lagged behind that number, with 46 percent proficient. That’s down from last year’s 49.2 percent.
Kannapolis City fourth-graders also fell several points behind the state average, with 45.3 percent of students scoring proficient.
In order for a student to be considered proficient he or she must score a level 3 or 4 on the test.
Seventh-grade results also improved statewide this year with 50.8 percent of students scoring proficient. Last year, only 46.2 percent of seventh-graders were proficient.
Rowan-Salisbury seventh-graders made a slight gain over last year’s results with 49.9 percent of students proficient. That brings the system’s score almost even with this year’s state average.
Kannapolis City seventh-graders made gains on scores this year as well, but still lag considerably behind their North Carolina peers. Only 38.4 percent scored a level 3 or 4 on this year’s test. Last year that number was 34.2 percent.
On the other hand, Kannapolis City 10th-graders at A.L Brown High School, the system’s only high school, passed other high school students in the state by a wide margin, with 63.1 percent proficiency. That’s up considerably from last year, when 55.4 percent of A.L. Brown 10th-graders scored proficient.
“I’m really proud that we’re above state average,” A.L. Brown Principal Dr. Debra Morris said.
Morris attributed the school’s large gains to great teachers and the importance placed on writing at the school.
“We do writing across the curriculum. Every teacher turns in their writing assignment to me each month. Writing is in every class ó health, P.E., band, chorus ó it doesn’t matter; everybody teaches writing,” Morris said.
“It’s a schoolwide effort and I just have wonderful teachers. They deserve all the credit for that in the world. I’m proud that we continue to gain and increase in our writing scores,” she said.
Overall, Rowan-Salisbury 10th-graders didn’t fare as well as their Kannapolis City peers.
Only 42.5 percent of 10th-graders who took the writing assessment earned a proficient score. That number is down from last year’s 47.7 percent.
The Rowan-Salisbury school system e-mailed a statement about its scores, which said: “School system staff will analyze data received from the 2006-2007 writing test administrations and will use this information to identify successful instructional strategies as well as areas in need of improvement. On-going support and writing training for teachers and students will be provided as students work to master important writing skills during the upcoming school year. More detailed results will be available at the June meeting of the Rowan-Salisbury School System Board of Education.”
Numbers are also down slightly statewide.
Only 51.4 percent of 10th-graders scored proficient this year.
“Students need to have strong writing skills to be competitive in a 21st century economy,” State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said in a news release. “We know that there is no perfect writing assessment but by continuing to focus on this important skill area, we can help ensure that writing instruction is a central component of public education,”
North Carolina has been giving writing assessment tests since 1983. The state revised the test in 2001.
Writing-test results are currently included in calculating each school’s performance rating under the ABCs, the state accountability program, and 10th-grade scores help determine if schools make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind accountability program.
Students at each grade level are asked to respond to a different prompt that focuses on a different type of writing.
This year, fourth-graders worked on an extended narrative response ( personal or imaginative); seventh-graders worked on extended argumentative response ( problem/solution or evaluative); and 10th-graders worked on extended information response (definition, cause/effect or problem/solution).
Students earn scores based on the content of their responses as well as sentence formation, usage, mechanics and spelling. Scores range from non-scorable up to level 4.
Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or