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District improves on '12 writing tests
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All three of Newton County School System's high schools improved their scores and the system topped the state average on the Georgia High School Writing Test in 2012.

NCSS showed a two point increase going from a score of 94 in 2011 to a 96 in 2012 - one point above Georgia's average score of 95, according to a news release from NCSS released on Thursday. The scores reflected were for juniors who were first-time test takers who took the test last fall during the 2011-2012 school year.

Alcovy High School improved its score by three points going from a 93 average score in 2011 to a 96 average score in 2012 - one point above the state's average score.

Eastside High School increased its scores by two points. The school's average score in 2011 was 95. This year the school scored a 97 - two points above the state average.

Newton High School scores went from a 94 average score in 2011 to a score of 95 in 2012. The school matched Georgia's average score on the writing test.

NCSS was just one point below the Rockdale County School System average score, which had an average score of 97. Salem High School and Heritage High School each had an average score of 97 and Rockdale County High School had an average score of 96.

Newton County Schools Superintendent Gary Mathews said the 2012 writing test scores in the district demonstrate the upward trajectory that the systems public schools have been on when it comes to state assessments.

"I am particularly pleased to see writing as strong as it is given its importance and signal that one is truly educated," Mathews said.

"Now, as the state has upped the ante with the new College and Career Readiness Performance Index, we have to begin to significantly translate Georgia results on the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests, End of Course Tests and Georgia High School Graduation Tests into greater results on college-level admission tests such as the ACT and SAT. But, we're on track to do that over time."

Director of Testing Dr. Carl Skinner released a GHSWT Report for 2012-2013, which showed the progress of all three high schools and the district when compared to the state over the last eight years, beginning in 2006. The report also included the systems subgroup performance.

According to the numbers in the report, NCSS outscored the state every year except for 2010.

In 2006, the district had an average score of 93 compared to the state average of 92; in 2007, the district had an average score of 95 compared to the state average of 91; in 2008, the district had a score of 93 compared to the state average of 89; in 2009, the district had a score of 95 and the state average was 91; in 2010, the district's average dropped below the state's with a score of 90 and the state average at 91; in 2011, the district had a score of 94 and the state average was 93; and finally in 2012, the district had an average of 96 and the state average was 95.

When it comes to the district's average scores improving this year, Skinner said he did not know particularly what each individual school was doing to improve its writing test scores. However, he did believe adding more writing into the curriculum may have benefited the students.

"I do know that they have increased writing across the curriculum where students are writing now in more than just language arts courses," Skinner said. "Some of the schools have students writing in P.E. classes, Fine Arts and it's not so much just working on language arts type persuasive questions. It's basically they're just putting more rigger into the literacy aspect of the education process."

According to the news release, students in the 11th grade participate in the Georgia High School Writing Test and must pass the test to earn a diploma in Georgia. Students are asked to produce a response to one on-demand persuasive writing prompt.

The writing test also required students to produce a composition of no more than two pages on an assigned topic.

The test is administered three times a year so that students have multiple opportunities to take the test before the end of their senior year.

Results of the GHSWT are used to identify students who may need additional instruction in academic content and skills considered essential for a high school diploma.