Local News

Move to end writing tests causes concern

Posted June 13, 2008 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2008 7:46 p.m. EDT

— 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.