The national writing report card for 2002 is out. Basically, fourth and eighth graders are improving compared to the 1998 scores, while 12th graders are writing worse than ever. One in four 12th graders tested as “below basic” on the writing exam; 24 percent were proficient or advanced writers.
Students are supposed to demonstrate narrative, informative and persuasive writing.
The writing assessment prompts presented students with a variety of tasks, such as writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper, offering advice to younger students, reporting to a school committee, and writing a story based on a poem.
. . . Many of the persuasive topics asked students to write in response to information provided with the assessment, such as newspaper articles, charts, photographs, and reported dialogues.
Black and Hispanic fourth graders are narrowing the performance gap, but there’s no significant improvement for older students. Asian-American students, already ahead in math, are pulling ahead in writing too.
Not surprisingly private school students write better than public students. The gap is so wide that public school students with a parent who’s a college graduate score slightly lower than private school students with a parent who’s a high school graduate.
In California, Hispanics and students learning English made large gains in eighth grade; black students did worse. (Fourth grade writing wasn’t tested before, so it’s not possible to measure change.)
Notably, however, average scores for Hispanic students improved significantly from 1998, and outpaced the increase in scores for the nation as a whole. California’s Hispanic eighth grade population gained nine points as compared to a five-point gain nationally. Eighth grade students classified as English learners also made a significant gain of nine points on the assessment.
More Hispanic students, especially English learners, are being taught in English since bilingual education was limited five years ago. It wouldn’t be amazing to learn that students who get more exposure to English write better in English. On the other hand, students who were eighth graders in 2002 started school under the old bilingual-is-best era, so they may not have been affected significantly by the switch to English immersion.