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State writing test results are not what’s desired at CCS PDF Print E-mail

By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican

Students in two of three grades at Chase County Schools (CCS) tested for writing scored lower than those in the same grades last year.
According to the Nebraska Department of Education Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA) report, students in the 2012-13 fourth and eighth grades scored lower than those in the same classes last year.
Students in 11th grade scored higher than those in the same grade last year.
According to NeSA, a total of 60 percent of the fourth grade students met the state standards or exceeded them. That breaks down to 55 percent meeting the standards and five percent exceeding them.
A total of 39 percent of the 38 students tested scored below the standards.
That compares to the 2012 fourth grade class which had 68 percent meeting the standards, and 32 percent scoring below.
In the eighth grade, 53 percent met or exceeded the standards this year, compared to 66 percent last year. The 2013 scores were 47 percent below standard, 42 percent meeting the standard and 11 percent exceeding the standard, with 53 students tested.
In the 11th grade, 71 percent met or exceeded the standard this year, compared to 70 percent last year. The 2013 scores were 29 percent below standard, 36 percent meeting the standard and 35 percent exceeding the standard, of 55 students tested.
The writing test scores for Nebraska eighth and 11th graders improved this year, with 66 percent of the eighth graders in the state meeting or exceeding the state standards, a two percent increase. And, 68 percent of the 11th graders met or exceeded standards, a six percent increase.
A report released last week also showed that 68 percent of the fourth graders in the state met or exceeded the standards.
Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed said the new writing scores should be interpreted with caution since some eighth and 11th graders experienced formatting issues while writing their essays online.
He said some students tried but could not correct formatting irregularities.
Writing essays were scored in four areas: content/ideas, organization, voice/word choice and sentence fluency/writing conventions.
Fourth graders were given timed, paper/pencil tests over two days.
CCS Superintendent Dr. Brad Schoeppey said, “We probably haven’t put enough emphasis on it (writing) because we were worried about our  reading and math.”
Dr. Schoeppey said the school will need to work on writing.
“We’re looking at a new writing program now, something more closely aligned to how the state tests,” he said.
He said the school is looking more at a six-trait writing program that teaches things such as opening paragraphs, and gives students a format to follow.
“We’re trying to get something consistent through the eighth grade,” Dr. Schoeppey added.
At present, according to Elementary Principal Pat Lane, the school is using Reading Mastery Language Arts to teach writing. It is a separate program from Reading Mastery, which the school has used for four years.
“If we go to a new reading program with a writing component with the six traits,” Lane said, “we will use that” for teaching writing.
As for the NeSA writing scores, although Dr. Schoeppey acknowledged that they need to improve, he pointed out that, at present, scoring a 54 to 57 percent on the test meets the state standards.
“That’s an F. Not a real high standard,” he stated. It takes an 87 percent test score to exceed the standards, and Dr. Schoeppey wants all students to be in that category.
“That’s why we have work to do until all kids are in the ‘exceed’ category,” he said.
Reading, math tests
Dr. Schoeppey said that when the certified state reading, math and science scores come out this July, CCS will see “good improvement in all areas.”
He said he thinks patrons will be “highly pleased,” according to preliminary results he’s received.