South Dakota writing scores on upward trend

South Dakota writing scores on upward trend In the third year of a statewide writing assessment, South Dakota students' performance on state writing tests continues to improve, the South Dakota Department of Education and Cultural Affairs (DECA) announced Dec. 20.

Results from the Stanford Writing Assessment Program showed that South Dakota ninth-graders scored an average of 81 on the writing tests this fall, while the state's fifth-graders scored an average of 61. A score of 50 represents national average.

Last year, the ninth-grade and fifth-grade scores, respectively, were 76 and 52. In 1998, the first year the assessment was given, scores for both grades were well below the 50th percentile. The scores that year averaged 29 in the ninth-grade and 40 in the fifth-grade.

"We are seeing strong improvement in students' writing, as schools do more to emphasize writing across the curriculum," DECA Secretary Ray Christensen said. "Since we first began to test writing performance statewide two years ago, our scores are on an upward trend. I believe that's because DECA and the schools have focused more resources, teacher training, and classroom time on student writing. Teachers are also finding ways to better interest their students in writing.

"This intensive focus on writing is very appropriate, because it is an essential communications skill," Christensen said. "Employers are looking for people who can communicate well, both orally and in writing."

In the Stanford Writing Assessment Program, students are asked to write on a specific topic, drawing on their own experiences, as well as their creativity and imagination. The test takes 50 minutes to complete. Each student essay is then evaluated for its overall quality.

South Dakota schools received their test score reports last week. For more information about test scores, Christensen encouraged citizens to contact their local schools. School district data is available from the department's website (www.

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