La. student writing skills improving

By Katherine Miller

CROWLEY – According to recent national test scores in Louisiana, eighth-graders are improving their writing skills. Our state is one of nineteen that showed improvement on this test, and the overall national average test scores increased by three points in the past five years on the writing assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the NAEP.

This past year, only twelve percent of eighth graders scored below basic in this area, while in 2002 twenty percent scored below basic.

Nicole Ortego, eighth grade teacher at Redemptorist Catholic, says she has seen much progress in her students’ writing, between their research, paragraph grouping, and making better conclusions. “Overall, they are writing more fluently,” said Ortego.

The NAEP writing assessment was given to a sample of more than 165,000 eight and twelfth graders of both public and private schools. From there, the test scores are broken down at the state level, but not by district, in which forty-five states participate.

The test measures students’ writing skills by engaging them in narrative, informative, and persuasive tasks. This new focus on creative writing, which helps students find their voice, is not only a national move but is gaining popularity in Louisiana. According to state officials, the State Department of Education will implement these writing techniques into the forthcoming school year’s curriculum. Ortego added that the program, which they call Grade Level Expectation, or GLE, has kept her students more on target. “These are great benchmarks. Right now my students are able to write between three and four paragraph papers. I feel that’s very good at their age,” said Ortego. She further explained that each grade level will build on the previous, and you can tell upon speaking with her that she is very enthusiastic about the program.

Writing educators believe that this move doesn’t remove the importance of grammar and spelling, but that the new methods give students writing voices earlier, and that this helps them to become all around better students. Ms. Ortego said that she also noticed improvements in other areas, such as Social Studies, where the students do a lot of writing, and that their critical thinking skills have improved as well.

If the implementation and results of this program throughout Louisiana is anything like the progress that Nicole Ortego has seen, Louisiana will continue to see major improvements in many areas of our students’ lives. Who knows where Louisiana’s education system is headed? Definitely toward better things.

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