A Glendale school district writing assessment exam given this year in the absence of a standardized state test shows most local high school juniors and seniors possess average or good writing skills, according to results released this week.
More than 80% of the district's 11th- and 12th-graders received scores of at least satisfactory on the test, which assessed their skills in autobiographical, interpretive, observational and other types of writing, according to a report presented Tuesday to the Board of Education.
A similar assessment test was given recently to the district's eighth-graders and is now being scored, said Gregory Bowman, director of curriculum and staff development.
District officials since 1986 have waged a campaign to emphasize writing in all disciplines. Last summer, they were considering developing a local writing assessment exam when then-Gov. George Deukmejian suspended funding for the 1990-91 California Assessment Program, a standardized test that includes a writing segment for students in grades eight and 12, administrators said.
The elimination of the state program left the district without a comprehensive tool to measure high school students' writing skills, so officials decided to give the local test in January, Bowman said.
"We think writing is important and we wanted information about our own students, so we developed our own assessment," Bowman said. "The fact that CAP wasn't there allowed us not to replicate the process."
About 2,600 students took the 45-minute test on Jan. 16. The exam, which cost the district about $6,500 to print and administer, was not given to students who speak limited or no English, Bowman said.
Students were scored on a scale of 1 to 6, or from minimal to exceptional achievement. About 22% received a score of 5 or 6; 60% scored 3 or 4, and 18% earned a 2 or below, according to Tuesday's report.
In 1990, the last time CAP testing was funded, Glendale's 12th-graders scored 15 points less on the standardized test than the year before, placing the district even with the statewide average.
Bowman said the results of the local assessment test cannot be compared to the CAP scores because of differences in how the questions were presented and how the performances were judged.
Also, unlike the CAP test, the local version does not compare Glendale's results with those of other districts. And the results, which have been returned to students and their teachers for evaluation, will be used only at the local level, Bowman said.
The assessment exam "is just an indicator of how we think we're doing," Bowman said. "It gives us some useful information about our own instructional program and it's a positive tool for our teachers and students. It also promotes the notion of writing across the curriculum."
District officials said they plan to give the test again next year. A final decision may depend on whether the state reinstates CAP funding, Bowman said.