Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Most Northwest Students Score above Average on FCAT Writing Test

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Most Northwest Students Score above Average on FCAT Writing Test

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Miller

Principals in northwest St. Johns County are elated about their students' scores on the writing portion of this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Most northwest schools scored well above the state and district average.

"We're absolutely thrilled," said Sue Sparkman, principal at Switzerland Point Middle School.

Switzerland Point eighth-graders scored an average 4.2 out of 6 on the test, compared to the state average of 3.8 and district average of 4.

Fourth, eighth and tenth-graders take the writing portion of the FCAT each year. On the test, students are required to write an a response to an assigned topic within a designated time period. Writing prompts are either expository, persuasive or narrative essays. The tests are evaluated on four elements -- focus, organization, support and conventions -- and are scored from 1 to 6 with 6 being the best score for a well-planned organized pattern.

To prepare for the test, Switzerland Point incorporated writing into all curriculum.

"We also trained all teachers on what to look for and students worked on writing passages," Sparkman said. "We want our children to write well, whether or not they take the test."

Another key, she said, is keeping the students calm.

"We try not to make the children too nervous," Sparkman said. "We don't want to equate the FCAT as the one test that can make or break you."

Superintendant of Schools Joseph Joyner said in a written statement that he's proud of the district's increase in writing scores.

"Our students are getting better at writing because they are using writing skills in all subject areas," he said.

Fruit Cove Middle School eighth-graders scored an average of 4 and Principal Clay Carmichael said he is ecstatic.

"I'm very proud of the students," he said. "It's important for students to write well and also be able to write and explain things. …

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