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Move to end writing tests causes concern

Posted June 13, 2008

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— A former chairman of the State Board of Education is criticizing a plan to eliminate standardized tests to measure students' writing ability.

The state Department of Public Instruction is considering a proposal to eliminate state writing tests in the fourth and seventh grades by 2010. DPI officials said a new system would assess students in every grade by focusing on a series of assignments to measure student progress.

Tenth-graders, who also take a state writing test, might continue taking a standardized exam to meet federal No Child Left Behind  Act requirements.

"We're not going away for the importance of writing. We're trying to enhance writing," said Rebecca Garland, executive director of the State Board of Education. "We feel like, with an annual attention paid to writing by every teacher that a student has, we'll begin to see significant progress."

Phil Kirk, a former chairman of the state board, disagrees. Changing the system could put too much of a burden on local curricula, he said, predicting the move would hurt writing skills needed at the business and college level.

"I'm concerned that, by taking it out of the ABC (student assessment) model, that our writing skills will go back downhill," Kirk said. "Many of our superintendents do not have the commitment to making writing a priority, and to be blunt about it, since writing will no longer be part of whether a teacher gets a bonus or not, common sense will tell you it won't be emphasized as much."

The North Carolina Association of Educators supports the state's new plan, and Garland said the changed system would prepare students for the modern world by utilizing computers and current event assignments.

"Writing is essential. It's more important now than it's ever been before," she said.

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  • teachnow Jun 13, 2008

    When you can come up with a standardized test that is unbiased, please let me know. Testing is here to stay, and I don't mean to sound like I think we should get rid of it. My problem with the way the test is done is that so much emphasis is put on the outcome of the test. I don't teach for the $$, let me assure you and I don't teach to the test. If the curriculum is taught, then the student should do fine, if they study. Unfortunately, students do not always know how to study, that is not a skill taught. I teach because I enjoy the students and the subject that I teach (Civic/Economics).

  • lauraleigh Jun 13, 2008

    Betty
    I agree - the testing system needs revision. And the State needs to start requiring systematic grammar studies from the first grade, so that by the time the kids hit the 10th Grade writing test, they can conjugate verbs, use appropriate agreement forms, and just generally know how to THINK.

    Hey - what was wrong with the old Iowa Basic Skills testing we used to have to do? Some private school still use those, effectively -

  • Betty Girlie Jun 13, 2008

    I taught 7th grade. The teachers in 7th grade spend the year training kids to write the two different types of essays that can be asked for on the 7th grade writing test: evaluative and problem solution. The best chance we had was teaching the kids a formula. I don't have a problem with a formula; it at least gives the kids a starting place when it comes to expository writing.
    That being said, the questions are inane and the expectations are ridiculous. The 6th grade teachers, usually, did almost nothing to help prepare the kids, so it was left to us to do all the "training" in that year.
    It sounds like the state wants to do a portfolio thing. If you think prepping kids for the writing test is time consuming ... a portfolio system is ten times worse! I can tell you that those writing folders won't even get looked at either.
    I think they need to test writing, but they need to re-evaluate the tests that are given. A portfolio system is a waste of everyone's time.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 13, 2008

    Sure lets do away with all measurements. That way the ever-crumbling inept public school system can just move the kids along from grade to grade, and send them on their way with the diploma in hand. Funny how as the system deteriorates, we see more and more proposals to not have a testing system. When I graduated from high school, the U.S was ahead in education vs all industrialized countries. Oddly enough, we had tests that we had to pass and it was a system that produced the generation that put people on the moon, and set in motion invention and creation of things that during my childhood were science fiction, or only found in comic books. Obviously testing has absolutely no value. And by the way, that excuse you use about teaching to the test. My teachers did not do that. They made sure you understood the material and the underlying concepts, and encouraged you to think. That is what they taught. Oddly enough those methods worked.

  • teachnow Jun 13, 2008

    As someone who has taught students writing skills (and they are skills), the problem I always had with the test was that the reader that grades the test did not know how far the writer had come from the first day to the day of the test. Also, it is not a finished product that they turn in. It is understood that it is more of a rought draft. I don't like tests of any sort the are the end all and be all. I have to agree, PLEASE let us teach the skills students need to become productive adults and able to take care of themselves and provide for their families.

  • pc35man Jun 13, 2008

    I disagree with doing away with the writing tests. The children rely too much on computer programs that will correct their grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Also what about penmanship. I have to agree with pschevy about the teachers only teaching a test so the students can pass it and they get a bonus. I disagree michealscott01. Its not about illegals not being able to write English. Its about getting all the kids to read and write English before they move to the next grade. The no child left behind policy the educational system has adopted is the problem here. You can take the horse to the watering trough but you cannot make the horse drink.

  • FIGSSIT Jun 13, 2008

    This is about illegals not being able to write English properly so they want to do away with writing English language all together, has nothing to do with whether kids learn anything or not.

  • NCTeacher Jun 13, 2008

    pschevy- I couldn't have said it better. Take away all the EOG's and let the teachers actually TEACH instead of worrying so much about a test. Let us worry about a child learning instead of making a 3 or 4

  • smalldogsrule Jun 13, 2008

    Lets do away with ALL standardized tests. There are NO standard children. Let's have our teachers TEACH the skills they need instead of babysitting for a paycheck. Our kids will do better when they are taught how to function instead of how to pass a test so teacher gets a bonus.