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August 13, 2007

2007 ISAT Writing Scores

Fifth grade writing scores are much lower this year than when they were last reported in 2004. Statewide combined Meets and Exceeds scores are at 50%; in 2004 fifth graders scored 70% at the Meets and Exceeds levels. The fact that the last time writing was tested was 2004 could point to the problem of lower scores. These fifth graders had never taken a state writing test before this spring; they were in second grade the last time the test was given. Also, although common sense tells us that writing instruction was not completely abandoned in our schools beginning in 2004, logic tells us that writing instruction has not received the same attention as the AYP subjects reading and math. Another contributing factor could be that fifth graders wrote only one composition so there was one attempt at a score.

Statewide eighth grade combined Meets and Exceeds scores are at 63%; in 2004 they were 66%, and in 2003 they were 59%. The students who took this test had previously taken a state writing test during third grade and fifth grade. Their scores are in line with natural fluctuations in writing scores, and these students obviously had a longer period of writing instruction. Also, eighth graders were given two compositions, and their scores are the average of the two.

Writing scoring has not changed, and we have not altered the basic construct of the test. This can be seen with eighth grade scores. It is our hope that schools will consider this year's fifth grade scores as a baseline. We are currently in production of a CD-Rom which explains scoring and which will be distributed to schools. Also, there are sample compositions online at, and there will be ISAT writing workshops at various venues in the state this fall. These will be listed on the website in late August or early September.

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Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777