The second "R": how good is good enough?

News broke last week that less than half of NC’s kids taking the state’s writing test this year passed it. Does this mean, as one district official opined in the news story, that the standards are too high? Or, as another suggested, that educators need to work harder to teach kids to write?

It’s a little alarming that in this era of accountability, it’s not that easy to figure out who’s right. Organizations who rate states’ standards, such as the AFT and the Fordham Foundation, don’t grade writing standards. Another possibility, as suggested by Caroline Hoxby in a recent Education Next piece, is to benchmark against NAEP. On that score, NC looks pretty good. Only 4 or 5 states statistically outscore NC on the 4th and 8th grade writing assessments.

Then again, only 32% of NC 4th graders were proficient or advanced in writing on the 2002 NAEP. So being better than average doesn’t mean the Tar Heel state’s job is done. No doubt we can improve the writing assessments in NC and elsewhere, but it would be foolish to think we’re doing as well as we can.

— Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact

P.S. for procrastinators: take the NC writing test yourself at the bottom of this press release.

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