Systemwide writing scores for fifth grade students improved for the second year, Effingham Board of Education members learned at their meeting Wednesday.
The scores, Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said, were better than last year’s and the year before’s.
The system also did very well compared to the state, Arnsdorff said.
“We outperformed the state in both the number of students who did not meet (standards). We came in below them, which is where you want to be,” he said. “We had more students that met (standards) compared to the state, and we were neck and neck with students who exceed standards — 7 percent for the district and 8 percent for the state of students who exceeded.”
The fifth grade writing assessment is one of three writing tests in grades three, five and eight. The test, in two 60-minute sessions, is given in the first week of March and each student takes it on the same day within the school district.
Students are asked to write on an informational, narrative or persuasive prompt for the test.
“For informational, an example would be: Think about a game you enjoy,” Arnsdorff said. “You have a friend who has never played the game, but wants to learn. In a report to your friend describe the game and explain how it is played. Be sure to explain the rules, the equipment, the number of players and anything else your friend might need to know to play the game.”
On a narrative prompt, a student would get a topic such as “most students have a favorite game or sport,” Arnsdorff explained. “Think about a time you played your favorite game or sport. Write a story about what happened during the game. That would be a narrative.”
A persuasive prompt, he said would be “Your class is discussing items that people use every day. Think of one item that you use every day. What would your life be like without it? Write a speech to convince your class that that item is important.”
The tests are scored by two raters who read and score each paper independently.
There was a decline at two schools in the total number of students who met or exceeded standards. Arnsdorff noted that their mean scores stayed the same, which shows that the scores are clustered close together.
“Generally, you’ll see some rather marked increases when you look at the total number of students who either met or exceeded, particularly led by Ebenezer Elementary School,” he said.
Other schools with high increases were Rincon and Springfield.
The district also increased its percentage of students meeting or exceeding by 5 percent and district students outperformed those in the region.
Arnsdorff spoke briefly about the current work on writing instruction that is happening in the district.
Superintendent Randy Shearouse said he noticed a great improvement looking at the percentage of students who did not meet in 2007 compared with 2009.
Arnsdorff said the district is beginning to see some of the benefits of the new writing program, and the use of thinking maps that have been used in schools in the system. The system also is looking at ways to improve scores.
“We are in the process of rolling out to all our schools — elementary is under way, middle school begins next year — a systematic, professional development plan for writing,” he said.
“We are proposing an additional staff person through some stimulus dollars to concentrate on working with teachers’ professional development, and rolling out that program. We think our challenge will be to continue to move students over from the meets category over to the exceeds, and we hope to see some growth in that over time.”