RCS students earn top writing scores
Melissa Cason and Kim West
The Russellville school system is known throughout the state for its success in athletics, but administrators in the system are proud to also be known for high test scores.
The system's fifth, seventh and 10th grades all scored among the top 20 in the state on the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing Test.
"We always like to know how we're doing and how other schools are doing, and how we compare to the other 131 school systems in the state," said Russellville City Schools administrative assistant George Harper.
"We had a number of students proficient in writing based on the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing Test, and our fifth grade ranked seventh in the state."
The ADAW has a scoring system of 1-4, with a score of 3 or 4 considered to be proficient. The ADAW is given each year in late February or early March to every school in the state.
The number that scored 3 or 4 and our percentage in Russellville for fifth graders was 76 percent.
"We like to look at our writing scores because we think it's important," Harper said.
"There are a lot of skills involved in writing – punctuation, organization and vocabulary – and there's no way to fudge on these types of tests. Students are given a prompt, a pencil and scratch paper, and there are three or four different prompts given to the same group of students. I think they give you an honest assessment of students' progress."
The tests are graded by out-of-state retired teachers or college graduate students who go by a rubric and look at the writing for use of vocabulary and organization, and the students typically write a page or two.
The fifth graders have 50 minutes to take the exam, while the seventh and tenth graders have 60 minutes.
"We don't really do any programs to prepare for the exam. When we first started taking the exams, we weren't doing as well as we wanted so we found people at school that did well and had them conduct workshops with our teachers about how to improve their students' writing skills," Harper said.
"Now we have two or three teachers in our system that are gifted in teaching students how to write, and they hold a workshop with the other teachers."
Russellville Elementary School Principal Kristy Ezzell said the scores are a direct result of the teachers' dedication to their students and the students' hard work.
"Our fifth grade students are tested in so many areas," Ezzell said. "They really work hard and do well because of that."
Ezzell said the students begin working toward the writing assessment when they start school.
"Each student has a portfolio that follows them from West Elementary and it shows each teacher where each student is in writing," Ezzell said.
"That gives teachers an idea where to start so the scores reflect all the hard work from teachers in every grade level."