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Bulloch schools encouraged by writing test results

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From the Bulloch County Board of Education:

STATESBORO, GA - Bulloch County Schools released its Georgia High School Writing Test (GHSWT) results Wednesday.  As a district, 91 percent of "All Students" taking the test met or exceeded standards, and  95 percent of all "Eleventh Grade First-Time Test Takers" met or exceeded standards, a one percentage point increase over 2011-12.

The "All Students" category includes both eleventh graders, who are taking the high school version of the test for the first time, and twelfth graders who are either retaking the test or have not taken it previously.  Georgia law (O.C.G.A §20-2-281) requires students' writing skills to be assessed in grades three, five, eight and eleven, and a passing score on the GHSWT is required to receive a high school diploma.

For "All Students," each of the district's three high schools scored as follows:  Portal Middle High (PMHS) - 91 percent, Southeast Bulloch High (SEBHS) 92 percent, and Statesboro High (SHS) 91 percent. In comparison, 93 percent of all students in the state met or exceeded standards. 

Scores for "Eleventh Grade First-Time Test Takers," are the following:  PMHS - 94 percent, SEBHS 97 percent, and SHS 93 percent.  Portal's scores reflect an increase of two percentage points over last year's scores and Southeast Bulloch's scores rose four percentage points.  Statesboro High posted a slight decline of one percentage point. In comparison, 95 percent of all students in this category across the state met or exceeded standards.

For the 2007-2008 school year, the Georgia Department of Education changed the GHWT's grading scale and gave more weight to organization and ideas.  This resulted in significantly lower scores that year for both the state (89 percent) and each of Bulloch County Schools' high schools, except SEBHS, whose students' scores rose one percentage point to 97 percent.  PMHS's and SHS's scores for that year were 84 percent and 85 percent respectively.  Since that time scores have increased steadily.

Since 2007-08 the percentage of all the school district's "Eleventh Grade First-Time Test Takers," that met or exceeded standards has increased seven percentage points from 88 percent to 95 percent.  Each of the three high schools increased as follows:  PMHS increased 10 percentage points from 84 percent to 94 percent; SEBHS, as noted above, experienced a one percent increase from 96 to 97 percent; and SHS scores increased eight percentage points from 85 percent to 93 percent.  In comparison, state scores increased six percentage points from 89 percent in 2007 to 94 percent in 2012-13. 

PMHS Principal Shawn Harralson attributes his students' score growth to his English-language arts team.  "Two years ago, our English teachers began meeting each August to create writing action plans for sixth through twelfth grades," said Harralson.   "They target specific grade-levels and set goals to cross curriculums and have teachers of other subjects incorporate specific writing formats into their daily instruction as well."

SHS also targets specific grades and subgroups in need of interventions by using the diagnostic program, WriteScore.  "We began using WriteScore three years ago," SHS Principal Marty Waters said.  The feedback that the program provides breaks down writing scores into four domains.  This allows teachers to focus on specific gaps in student skills and aids in planning as they strive to integrate writing into all coursework.  

"We are now charting our students' progress beginning with the Eighth Grade Writing Test," Waters said.  "Using WriteScore benchmark data, and GHSWT results, we can determine if there is a pattern and provide targeted interventions beginning in the ninth grade."

The GHSWT provides achievement data for the district's various subgroups as well including students with disabilities and English language learners.  "Last year, we were able to provide extra support to our students with disabilities through a resource English teacher," Waters said. "Special education (SPED) continues to be an identified weak area for us with writing."  Only 43 percent of the 30 students included in SHS's "All Special Education" test group met or exceeded standards.  PMHS achieved the greatest success with 60 percent of its ten SPED students meeting standards, and 58 percent of SEBHS's 26 SPED students met or exceeded standards.   For the school district, 52 percent of SPED students achieved standards.

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