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National student writing assessment goes high tech

POSTED September 21, 2012 11:28 p.m.

For the first time ever the U.S. Department of Education used advances in technology to assess students’ writing capabilities.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress annual test sampled students in grades 8 and 12 across the country to determine progress in writing on a nationwide level.  Specific results for states and school districts were not released. 

Results from NAEP, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed that more than 75 percent of students at grades 8 and 12 performed at or above the basic achievement level, meaning that they have at least partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed to communicate clearly in writing.  Only 25 percent of the students wrote at or above the proficient level, which means they demonstrate solid academic performance.

“The pace of written communication in today’s environment reflects the transition to an information-based economy built on complexity and efficiency,” said David P. Driscoll, NAEP chairman of the Governing Board. “The Nation’s Report Card’s new computer-based design captures students’ ability to respond clearly and accurately in real-world, on-demand situations and allows NAEP to collect information about how students use technology in developing and editing their writing. These data tell us how well students are writing using the technology they will have in higher education and the workplace.”

 NAEP moved from the traditional handwritten tests to computers because of the significant role they play in writing and the prevalence of computers in students' lives. For the test, NAEP provided computers with word processing tools but without potential distractions, such as the ability to change font and color, add clip art or access the Internet.

“Technology has become a necessity in our lives,” said Turlock Unified School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Lacrisha Ferriera.  “Using technology to enhance the delivery of effective instruction will support students in every core academic content area including writing.  Technology should be used in instruction.”

Extensive studies and model schools have shown that educational technology enhances student learning in many cases. In the "Report on Effectiveness of Technology in Schools 1990-1994," researchers found that technology can lead to improvement in performance most notably in math, science, social studies, and language arts.

“Educators should use technology in the classroom because its wide range of uses and forms has the potential to reach students of all learning styles, as well as be more efficient,” said Ferriera.  “The interest and motivation that technology induces in students makes its usage in schools important. Educators better prepare students for the future when using technology aimed at addressing each learning style.”

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