State Journal

September 22, 1999 1 min read

Writing a wrong

Arguments that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” are to no avail in Washington state, where the rescoring of last spring’s writing test will penalize students who used writing conventions inconsistently.

State officials who analyzed the essay tests given to 204,000 students in June concluded that scorers had not been adequately trained to evaluate the use of punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, grammar, and paragraphing.

“Too many kids got 2’s on conventions that should have gotten 1’s,” state Superintendent Terry Bergeson said, referring to the test’s 6-point scoring scale. Students whose essays used such mechanics inconsistently should have been marked down, she said.

Students also were graded on organization, ideas, and writing style.

This is the first year in which all 4th, 7th, and 10th graders took the writing test, which is part of the 1999 Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Results from the other portions--covering reading, mathematics, and listening--were released Sept. 7. Release of the writing scores is now planned for later this fall.

Riverside Publishing Inc., the Chicago-based company hired by the state to administer the assessment, will bear the $600,000 cost of re-scoring the tests.

Preserving history

When Alabama revised its curriculum framework for social studies last year, a piece of history was lost--Alabama history, that is.

The state eliminated Alabama history as a separate subject for 9th graders, saying it should instead be integrated into 10th and 11th grade U.S. history courses. State historians responded by putting together a 264-page document that seeks to help teachers do that.

“Alabama Moments in American History: Supplemental Materials for High School Teachers” was published over the summer and distributed to every district. The state also held workshops for teachers to learn about the publication.

Although most Alabama scholars applauded the new framework, they were concerned that the state’s role in American history might be neglected, according to Debbie D. Pendleton, an assistant director in the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

--Andrew Trotter & Erik W. Robelen