South Whidbey’s student writers just about average

"They still fall well short of meeting the state writing standard, but South Whidbey students are doing about as well or slightly better than their peers throughout the state.Results of the statewide writing tests administered last spring were released last week by the state. Math, listening and and reading scores were announced earlier, but the writing exams had to be re-scored due to an error by the testing company.In a nutshell, about one-third of South Whidbey fourth graders meet the writing standard in a test called the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. In the seventh and 10th grades, just under half the students met the standard. Those are comparable to statewide results.State standards are not easy to achieve, according to John Willson, district testing official. “Administrators, board members, parents and community members need to keep in mind that standards are oriented not to the lowest common denominator but rather to quality, excellence and proficiency,” he stated in a letter to the school board.The 1999 fourth grade scores were worse than last year’s by about 15 points, which is a reason for some concern among South Whidbey school officials. Last year, 48 percent of fourth graders met the state standard, while this year the number fell to 32.7 percent.Dr. Lisa Bjork, superintendent of South Whidbey schools, advised against anyone becoming alarmed over the fourth grade results. “People should not get too excited about any test at any one point in time,” she said, adding that the staff has been working hard on writing for several years. “We have teachers working their hearts out,” she said.Next year’s testing will be interesting, however. Bjork said the year 2000 seventh graders will be the first class which also took the writing assessment test as fourth graders, so their progress should be easier to measure. She described the new state tests as “reliable, but not as reliable as they will be.”The state writing test is designed to measure content, including organization and style; and “conventions,” including grammar and spelling.Willson said South Whidbey fourth graders’ greatest area of weakness is content, where they scored 24.8. But the story is better for the higher grades. Seventh graders scored 63 in content, and 10th grader 73.3.Students here and elsewhere have a long way to go before they achieve a state-required Certificate of Mastery in all four standards: math, reading, writing and listening. On South Whidbey, only one-fourth of the 10th graders met all four standards, while another one-fourth failed to meet any of the standards."

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