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Officials report decline on 5th-grade writing test

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Fifth-graders in the Henry County School System struggled on the state's Spring 2010 Writing Test. However, one school is lauding the use of web-based study tools, that put it above the rest.

Only about 74 percent of fifth-graders, system-wide, met or exceeded state standards on the writing assessment, compared to 81 percent in 2009, according to Terris Ross, Henry's assessment, evaluation, and development coordinator.

The assessment -- which evaluates student responses to assigned topics representing three genres of writing, including narrative, informational, and persuasive writing -- was administered on March 4, this year.

As performance diminished system-wide for fifth-graders, some schools reported improvements in writing. Pleasant Grove Principal Tracie Copper acknowledged the fifth grade class at her school as having the fifth-highest pass rate among schools in the district.

Copper said 73 percent of Pleasant Grove's fifth-graders met state writing standards, while an additional 10 percent exceeded standards. Overall, 83 percent of fifth-graders at Pleasant Grove passed the writing assessment, which is nearly 10 percent more than the school system average.

Copper credits the use of web-based writing tools, made possible through grant funding.

Pleasant Grove's Instruction Technology Specialist Cheryl Harmon and Fifth Grade Department Chair Tina Hall said they co-wrote an education grant proposal last year, which earned them a total of $1,500 for instructional use at the school. Harmon said they decided to split the amount between funding My Access and funding Study Island, two integrated, web-based learning tools that cover writing skills.

Study Island, she said, is a national web-based program tailored to individual state standards like the Georgia Performance Standards curriculum. She said the program allowed students an opportunity to study and access games, lessons, and work via the Internet at school or at home.

"The students were able to utilize it at home. So, learning was continuous," Harmon said.

Parents and teachers were able to access daily assignments through the program as well, and keep track of students' progress on class work, she said.

Teachers were able to analyze the results of the assessment to determine individual growth for students, added Copper. "Our goal this school year was acceleration, and for our students to exceed standards," said Copper. "This is a school-wide effort, we really concentrate on everyone, from kindergarten to fifth grade."