Hall County’s juniors surpassed state and regional results on the writing portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests and a local educator says it is because of a commitment to teaching students how to communicate.
Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for the Hall County school system, said it is important that students know how to write.
“We feel it’s important for (students) to be able to communicate in both oral and written form,” she said. “There actually was a time that we got away from students learning to write well and we know now that it is key, teaching students to communicate.”
Before the graduation tests were adopted in recent years, the Basic Skills Tests didn’t include a writing portion, Barron said.
Hall County’s 1,235 first-time juniors took the writing portion of the graduation test Sept. 30, with 94 percent passing. That’s higher than the 91 percent passage statewide and the 93 percent in the Pioneer RESA area, a multicounty area spread across Northeast Georgia.
In the “exceeds standards” category, Hall students again did better than their peers across the state and across the region. In Hall, 12 percent of students fell into that category, compared to only 9 percent statewide and 11 percent in the RESA area.
Students have to write an essay for the test and are evaluated on their writing and comprehension skills.
To meet Georgia State Board of Education high school graduation requirements, students must pass the writing portion of the graduation test in addition to the mathematics, English/language arts, science and social studies portions.
“We really are pleased, especially with the number (of students) exceeding both state and RESA,” Barron said. “That’s really an accomplishment and it really speaks to a focus on rigor in Hall County.”
Hall County’s schools are “stressing having students write in different classes, not just in the language arts class,” Barron said.
“At Chestatee (High School) for example, they expect students to write in each class at least twice per week. ... So we’re spending much more time or much more emphasis on writing or the process of writing.”
While the writing test is given in the spring, tests in the other areas are given each spring. A student must pass all the tests to graduate, but has multiple chances to do so before the spring of his or her senior year.
The math and language arts portions of the graduation test results for each school and the school systems as a whole are part of No Child Left Behind evaluations.