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Maine Writing Scores Show Improvement
National eighth-grade assessment reflects higher performance in writing
April 4, 2008
AUGUSTA – Maine eighth-graders’ writing scores on a national writing test improved significantly in 2007 compared to previous years. Thirty-nine percent of the students performed at or above the proficient level, compared to 36 percent in 2002 and 32 percent in 1998. Nationally 31 percent performed at or above the proficient level in 2007.
Maine was one of 45 states and 10 urban districts to voluntarily participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). To measure their writing skills, the assessment engaged students in narrative, informative, and persuasive writing tasks.
The percentage of students in Maine performing below the basic level dropped from 13 percent in 1998 to 10 percent in 2007. Nationally 13 percent of eighth graders performed below the basic level.
The average score in Maine was 161 compared to a national average score of 154. In 1998 the average score in Maine was 155. The changes are statistically significant, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which reported the results.
“We are very pleased with the significant increase in writing scores,” Maine Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron said. She said the scores reflect a concerted effort at all levels to implement Maine’s Learning Results standards in writing.
“Teachers, especially, are doing excellent work in the field,” she said.
The eighth-grade writing scores may also reflect the influence of laptops in middle school classrooms. Maine’s nation-leading 1-to-1 laptop program was credited in an October 2007 report with improving writing scores for middle school students. The report by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute at the University of Southern Maine concluded that MEA writing scores improved significantly from 2000 to 2005 and that a direct connection could be made to the introduction of laptops to every middle school student in 2002. That study can be found at: http://www.usm.maine.edu/cepare .
Still, Gendron said the credit should not be given to laptops alone.
“Laptops and training alone do not lead to improved writing,” Gendron said. “It takes school districts that embrace the use of technology as an educational tool, and it takes teachers who are willing to use the technology creatively in the classroom to see the kind of progress we are seeing.”
“We can’t say that laptops are the reason for the higher scores, but they are clearly a part,” Gendron said. “The improved scores are the result of efforts in several areas and by all parties – students, teachers, administrators, state efforts, and others.”
Not all of the news was good. Boys continue to lag behind girls by 25 points, almost the same as in 1998; and economically disadvantaged students still performed noticeably below students overall – by 17 points.
“We are not making progress in closing those gaps,” Gendron said. “We must continue to look at how we can improve writing performance by boys and by students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. We are not serving all our students when some groups fall behind.”
David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, Maine Department of Education 207-624-6880
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