Saturday, August 06, 2016

EDITORIAL >> How to right bad writing

Remember when Typing 101 was offered in junior high and high school?

Somehow we’ve gotten away from keyboarding in the last decade or so and that lack of “QWERTY” knowledge has affected this year’s writing scores.

At least we hope that is part of the problem otherwise more than 90 percent of students in some area schools and classes truly cannot write on grade level.

That’s a scary thought for the future of our area, the state and nation.

According to the recently released state test, nearly all the fifth graders in Searcy cannot write, neither can third graders at Bayou Meto nor Carlisle Elementary and neither can fourth graders at Bayou Meto, Clinton, Harris, Sylvan Hills, Pinewood, Arnold Drive or Carlisle elementaries.

And if lack of keyboarding practice is not one of the causes for low scores, then 98 percent of Cato Elementary fourth graders (incoming fifth graders) cannot function at grade level because their writing scores are so low.

Dr. Belinda Shook, Beebe School District superintendent, said lack of keyboarding skills was certainly a factor, but will improve now that teachers and students have a better idea of the test.

This was the first year for the online ACT Aspire test, and even though students did well in English, they got off to a rocky start in writing.

Dr. John Tackett, deputy superintendent, said part of the problem had to do with the complexity of the questions. He said all test questions have a depth of knowledge or complexity of 1, 2 or 3. A DOK-1 question is simple recall, a DOK-2 question requires some thinking and a DOK-3 requires analysis, inferences, the connecting of dots when most of the dots are missing.

The English section of the state test, which most students scored average to excellent on, had just 25 questions at the DOK-3 or hardest level. Tackett said in writing, 100 percent of the questions were of the toughest variety.

He added that if one looks at the poor writing scores using percentile ranking, which shows how Arkansas compared to the rest of the nation, local students were in the top half of the country in writing.

That sounds good, but that’s a scary narrative for the nation as a whole.

Bottom line, even after keyboarding issues, we are still not near where we need to be.

So the fault really lies with the students, teachers, administrations, district and yes, parents. If we don’t want this generation to be witless writers, we must all join in together in the arena of writing.

Or else wee wil sea a lot of tis inn thhe futire.