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Vol. 46, No. 66
September 14, 2012

Missouri Students Participate in First National Computer-Based Test
Writing test results show just one quarter of U.S. students are proficient

About 700 students from 25 public schools in Missouri were among more than 50,000 students participating in the country’s first national computer-based writing test. According to The Nation's Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), just over one quarter of students earned a "proficient" or "advanced" score on the test.

While NAEP has conducted writing assessments in the past, this is the first year the test was computer-based. Due to the differences in the testing and scoring process, this year's test results cannot be compared to earlier assessments. The test results were reported only on a national level; state-level results were not released.

"The ability to communicate and write well is critical in our information-based society," said Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. "Solid writing skills are essential for students to be college- and career-ready."

Preparing students for college or other postsecondary training and careers is one of the goals of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Top 10 by 20 initiative, an education improvement effort that aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top 10 states in the nation by 2020.

According to NAEP, 3 percent of students scored at the advanced level, while 24 percent scored at the proficient level. About 52 percent of students earned basic-level scores, and just over 20 percent of students scored below basic.

The writing assessment was conducted in grades 8 and 12 at selected schools across the country. The students' writing was evaluated according to three criteria: development of ideas, organization of ideas and use of language.

The computer-based writing assessment was developed to reflect the growing use of technology in the classroom and on the job. Students were given two writing tasks and had 30 minutes to complete each response using a laptop computer and word-processing software. Test questions addressed situations common in academic and workplace settings and required students to write for different audiences and purposes to persuade, to explain or to convey a real or imagined experience.

Since 1969, NAEP has conducted periodic testing in reading, math, science, writing, history and other subjects. Schools are selected for NAEP testing to accurately represent the geographical, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the schools and students in the United States. For more information, visit