Kings Bridge Middle School made a significant improvement in the percentage of eighth graders passing a state-mandated writing test.

However, officials with the Jackson County School System say there’s still work to be done to get more kids meeting and exceeding state writing standards.

“We’re already in a very good place, but it’s exciting to see how we can take it to the next level,” said Amity Hardigree, the district’s literacy specialist, during the March 19 board of education meeting.

Georgia requires that third, fifth, eighth and 11th grade students take a writing assessment. For eighth graders, students have 100 minutes to write an essay from an assigned topic. The writing assessment is given in January and later scored by two raters. Local school systems recently received those results. Last year, Kings Bridge Middle School had the highest failure rate on the eighth grade writing assessment among all middle schools in the county and one of the worst in the state. More than 28 percent of students failed the test — which was above the state failure rate of 17.3 percent in 2011.

But this year, the school made a significant improvement on its eighth grade writing test scores with 16.1 percent of students failing the assessment. Statewide, the failure rate was 17.7 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, West Jackson Middle School and East Jackson Middle School saw a slight increase in the percentage of students failing the writing test.

Last year, 14.8 percent of eighth graders at WJMS failed the writing test, compared to 15.4 percent this year.

At EJMS, 10.5 percent of eighth graders failed the assessment in 2011, compared to 11.4 percent in 2012.

“We’re not making the progress that we want to, that’s why we’re so glad that Amity (Hardigree) is with us to help us pinpoint even more where we need to go,” said Kathy Miller, director of curriculum and accountability for the school system.

Hardigree, a former EIP teacher at North Jackson Elementary School, was named the district’s literacy specialist in December. The position was once trimmed during layoffs by the school system, but the board of education restored funding for the job last fall in order to spearhead a district literacy plan as the state implements the new Common Core Curriculum.

The Jackson County School System held its first task force meeting last week to address writing skills for students in all grades and courses, according to Hardigree.

The next steps for the district will be increasing the rigor of writing requirements for students and getting more kids to exceed standards on the state writing assessments, according to Hardigree and Miller. Already, teachers have been taking part in more training to accomplish those goals.

Elsewhere in Jackson County, Jefferson Middle School also made a noticeable improvement in the score of its eighth grade writing assessment.

Last year, 10.4 percent of JMS students failed the test, compared to 5.1 percent this year.

Commerce Middle School posted the best score on the eighth grade writing assessment among local schools. For 2012, 4.8 percent of students failed the test, compared to 7.6 percent last year.

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