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NAEP 2007 WRITING SCORES RELEASED: More Students Performing At or Above Basic, Yet Majority Still Below Grade Level

"Colleges and businesses have made clear that stronger writing skills must be taught in our schools, and these scores show the accountability demanded by No Child Left Behind is producing results."
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U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was pleased with the results of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that were released on April 3, noting that writing scores for eighth- and twelfth-graders are at historic highs. “Just as we have seen with the 2007 reading and math results, student achievement in writing is on the rise,” she said. “Colleges and businesses have made clear that stronger writing skills must be taught in our schools, and these scores show the accountability demanded by No Child Left Behind is producing results.”

But while average writing scores on the 2007 assessment were higher for both eighth and twelfth graders than they were in 2002 and 1998, the results nevertheless show that America’s older students continue to struggle. Only 31 percent of eighth-grade public school students and 24 percent of all twelfth graders scored at or above the proficient level, which many educators and policymakers equate as being at or above grade level. At the same time, 57 percent of eighth and 58 percent of twelfth graders scored at the basic level, and 13 and 18 percent, respectively, scored at below basic, indicating that they are writing at performance levels considerably below grade level.

The average eighth-grade public school student scored 154 on a three-hundred-point scale, two points higher than in 2002 and six points higher than 1998. Twelfth graders scored an average of 153 points on the same scale-five points higher than in 2002, but only three points higher than in 1998.

While she praised these increases, Spellings did go on to say that she was “not yet satisfied,” and that there is still room for improvement. “Lower and middle performing students improved, and we are seeing continuing closure of racial, ethnic and gender gaps,” she said. “We have more work to do to ensure all groups make gains, but this report assures us that the indicators are moving in the right direction.”

Indeed, the gains posted by minority students were not enough to close large achievement gaps that exist between them and their white and Asian peers, as demonstrated in the graph below.

Ten urban districts volunteered to take part in the eighth-grade assessment; four of these had also participated in 2002. Of the four, Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles performed significantly better than they had five years before. The increase in Houston’s score, however, was not considered significant. Both Atlanta and Los Angeles showed significantly higher gains than did their states-Atlanta gained fifteen points, compared to Georgia’s overall six-point gain; Los Angeles gained nine points at the same time that California made no significant gains.

“We are very encouraged by the writing gains of students in America’s major cities taking the nation’s most challenging test,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. “We’re closer to the national averages in writing than we are in reading or math, although we are steadily closing the gaps in all three subjects.”

The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2007 can be downloaded at http://nationsreportcard.gov/writing_2007/.

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