NAEP: 27% of students write proficiently

Students in eighth and 12th grade write just as poorly on laptops as they do with paper and pencil, concludes the new National Assessment of Educational Progress writing exam. In both grades, 27 percent of students were rated proficient or better.

Students were given “two 30-minute writing prompts that asked them to persuade, explain, or convey experiences,” reports Education Week.

At the 8th grade level, for example, one exercise called “Lost Island” asked students to imagine they had arrived on a remote island and listen to an audio file that included nature sounds and lines of a journal read aloud. Students then were required to write personal stories that chronicled an experience they would have had on the island, had they been there.

To reach “advanced” on the exam, students told well-organized stories with strong details, precise word choices, and varied sentences, according to the NAEP report. Students at the “basic” level would use some detail in their stories, but organization was “loose,” sentence structure unvaried, and word choice limited.

Students who were required by teachers to use computers more often to write and edit assignments performed better on the test, NAEP reported. Most students used spell check, but only 20 percent used the cut and paste functions on the laptops.

Girls did much better than boys. The racial breakdown was . . . The usual. I’ll just note that Asian-American students, many of whom speak English as a second language, outscored whites.


Students do worse on online writing test

Oregon middle school students earn lower writing scores when they take the test online instead on paper, AP reports, even though “the tests used the same prompts and were identical.”

Students said they had trouble proofreading on the screen; they’re used to printing out a draft to proofread it.  In addition, students are used to using programs that check their spelling and grammar.  “They’ve never used (a computer) that didn’t have that,” said Mark Molner, who teaches writing at Bend High. Students also said they slow down and write more thoughtfully on paper.

Molner thinks that while spell-check may make some students less inclined to proofread, it is a tool that is here to stay.

“It is going to exist on every computer they’re going to use,” he said. “People make the same argument about calculators and computation errors.

Instant messaging and texting are eroding basic skills, complains Bend High writing teacher Nikki Baird. She’s forced to reteach capitalization and punctuation skills that should have been learned in elementary school. In class, her students write with paper and pencil, just like in the old days.