Students tops at writing test

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County Public Schools' eighth-graders excelled on this year's Grade 8 State Writing Test, with students at Osborne Middle and North Gwinnett Middle receiving the highest scores in the state.

Osborne's mean scaled score of 243.09 was the highest of any school in Georgia, while North Gwinnett's score of 242.4 earned it the second highest score in the state, according to a news release.

The eighth-grade state writing assessment measures a student's ability to communicate in writing using an assigned prompt. The genres assessed are expository or persuasive writing. Students must demonstrate development of the topic; good organization of their ideas; use of language and vocabulary to engage the reader; and proper sentence structure, grammar, and mechanics.

More than 12,000 Gwinnett eighth-graders took the state writing test, achieving a mean scale of 225, compared to Gwinnett's scale score of 222 last year. Across Georgia, 119,816 students were tested, scoring a mean score of 213 this year compared to 210 last year.

Gwinnett's passing rate increased from 88 percent in 2009 to 91 percent this year.

In all, the scores of 10 Gwinnett middle schools were in the top 30 scores statewide: Osborne, North Gwinnett, Trickum, Twin Rivers, Crews, Jones, Pinckneyville, Bay Creek, Five Forks and Couch.

Osborne principal John Campbell said his school's strong performance on this test and others is a source of great pride.

"We are especially proud of our students' success on assessments requiring writing, higher-order problem solving, and the ability to take information and apply it to new situations," Campbell said. "At Osborne, we believe teaching students to become proficient writers helps them to organize, extend and deepen knowledge as well as understand ideas and gain insights from reading."

North Gwinnett Middle principal Wanda Law said she is pleased with her school's accomplishments during its inaugural year.

"These scores are a reflection of the skills and dedication of our staff, as well as the expectation for academic rigor and success from our students and community," she said. "Writing is a part of our normal routine in all curriculum areas. The students know they are expected to write in all of their classes, and they understand the important aspect of communication through writing."

In Gwinnett, this state test serves as a local promotion requirement, requiring Gwinnett students to meet or exceed state standards. In addition, eighth-graders must pass five of their six courses -- including language arts and math -- and must meet state standards on the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests to earn promotion to ninth grade, school officials said.

Students who did not pass this first administration, but who are required to pass to earn promotion, have the opportunity to receive extra help in preparation for a retest. The results from the retest will be available prior to the beginning of summer school.

Students who are not successful on the retest can attend summer school to improve their writing skills in preparation for another retest at the end of summer school.