Students’ scores mixed on writing test

Published 8:55 am Thursday, June 30, 2011

The writing’s on the wall for Austin Public School ninth-graders, but it’s not as bad as national experts expected.

The Minnesota Department of Education released state comprehensive test writing scores Wednesday. Austin Public Schools’ ninth-grade GRAD writing scores fell slightly on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, from 90.8 percent passing in 2010 to 85.9 percent in 2011. Of 283 Austin students, 243 passed the test.

“We don’t want to lose ground in terms of where we’ve come,” said John Alberts, Austin’s director of educational services.

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Statewide, ninth-grade GRAD Writing scores dipped slightly from 90 percent in 2010 to 89 percent in 2011.

While state scores have remained relatively close, bouncing between 89 and 90 percent since 2007 when the test was first administered, Austin Public Schools has gone through a cycle of scores. While scores were about 91 percent in 2007, they dipped down to 84 percent the next year, climbing up to 90 percent in 2010 before this year’s drop.

Schools across Mower County fared a little better. Overall, 86 percent of Mower County ninth-graders passed muster. Grand Meadow Public School students fared best, as 16 of 17 ninth-graders, about 94.1 percent, passed. Only 10 of 14 Lyle Public School students, about 71.4 percent, passed.

The drop in writing could have been worse. National education experts predicted lower test scores on No Child Left Behind-mandated state comprehensive testing this year. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress in March that the Department of Education predicted more than 82 percent of schools would fail state comprehensive testing this year.

While Austin’s GRAD scores aren’t bad, district officials aren’t satisfied with the numbers. School officials reviewed and adopted a new district-wide Language Arts curriculum last year based on Common Core standards, a curriculum system that MDE is expected to adopt statewide by 2013. They believe the new lessons will help students with the Language Arts portions of the MCAs. The new Common Core standards call for getting students to analyze and identify the writing process more, making students learn how to organize their thoughts on paper better.

“(It’s) just to really look at that writing experience,” Alberts said.