Washington state eighth-grade students in virtually all demographic groups made large gains on the writing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over a 10-year period, according to the recently released 2007 NAEP results.
Washington’s students earned an average scale score of 158 — four points higher than the national average. The test was given in early 2007 to 2,840 randomly selected eighth graders in 130 of Washington state’s middle schools.
“I’m very excited about the NAEP results,” said Terry Bergeson, Washington state superintendent of public instruction. “Washington’s young writers are outpacing the nation. These students are not only prepared to meet the rigor of a high-school curriculum, they are prepared to communicate well no matter what career they pursue. Clear writing demonstrates clear thinking.”
The average NAEP score in Washington jumped from 148 to 158 between 1998 and 2007. That increase and the state’s overall score is considered statistically significant, meaning the increase is far greater than the margin of error.
The NAEP writing test is scored on a scale of 0 to 300 and is grouped into four major levels — Below Basic (113 or lower), Basic (114-172), Proficient (173-223) and Advanced (224-300).
Females recorded the most impressive proficiency gains of all demographic groups in Washington, increasing from 32 percent Proficient in 1998 to 44 percent Proficient in 2007. The percentage of all Washington students who earned scores at or above Proficient jumped from 25 percent to 35 percent over the same 10-year period. Only six other states saw as strong an improvement during the same period.
Washington state tests students on writing in the fourth, seventh and 10th grades with the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). Like the NAEP, the WASL tests three types of writing: narrative, informational/expository and persuasive, and these scores show similar improvements to the NAEP.
“Our teachers really get the direct connection between our state test and what they are teaching,” Bergeson said.
Both the WASL and the NAEP show that writing scores for males haven’t improved much in recent years.