Writing Scores Join Reading in Showing Drop

By Davis, Jon; Wallace, Diana | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Writing Scores Join Reading in Showing Drop


Davis, Jon, Wallace, Diana, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jon Davis and Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writers

*****

CORRECTION/date 12-12-1996: The graphic in some editions of this article incorrectly reported the number of Grayslake High School students who are not meeting state-set goals in writing on the standardized tests contained in the yearly school report card. The correct percentages of students not meeting the writing goals are 31 percent in 1995 and 64 percent in 1996.

*****

How writing skills are graded

A private company is hired to individually grade tests taken by all students in the state. Five areas are measured: focus, support, organization, conventions and how those four areas are tied together. To guide the graders, teachers provide papers showing examples of writing and grading for each point in every category. Here are examples of the writing exercises given on the state test:

Third grade

Many things can hurt our land, air and water. We call the land, air and water around us our environment. Things which hurt our environment are called pollution. Think about what can happen if we pollute our environment. Think about some things that you and your classmates can do at home or at school to help take care of the environment.

Write a report for your teacher in which you do the following:

1. Choose something that is polluting the environment and tell about it.

2. Tell what might happen if the pollution is not stopped.

3. Tell how you and your classmates might help to stop the pollution.

4. You may use ideas you have gotten from science classes, TV, magazines and books.

Sixth, Eighth and 11th grade

Your science class has been discussing the problems in our environment such as littering the land and water, using products that cannot be recycled, burning toxic chemicals and other waste products, cutting down trees, filling in the wetlands, and killing rare kinds of birds and animals. Your science teacher has asked each of you to choose one problem in our environment and explain why it is a problem and suggest things which can be done to help solve it.

Write a report for your teacher in which you do the following

1. Name and describe one problem in our environment. You may choose one of those mentioned above or select your own. Explain why it is a problem and how it hurts our environment.

2. Explain what people and the government can do to solve the problem.

3. Use information you know from school, TV, newspapers or your own experiences.

Source: Illinois Board of Education

While educators and parents worry over slumping reading scores statewide, some high schools in the suburban area are noticing another trend: alarming drops in writing proficiency.

At 14 of 50 suburban high schools in the Northwest, North and West suburbs, Illinois Goals Assessment Program writing scores for 10th graders have declined over the last four years.

Unlike reading, not all the news about writing is bad. Many suburban high schools improved their students' writing scores from 1993 to 1996.

At Streamwood High School in 1993, for example, fully 77 percent of the 10th graders failed to meet state writing standards. This year the failure rate slacked off to 50 percent - not good numbers yet, but an encouraging trend. And at Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, 46 percent of 10th graders failed in 1993 but only 24 percent did in 1996.

But other high schools report a more disturbing trend: The number of students who fail to meet state goals in writing has risen.

The "why" is difficult to pinpoint. Are teachers themselves sufficiently taught writing, as one expert questions; or is there too little emphasis placed on writing in classes outside of English? …

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