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Fifth grade rewrites writing record

If you see this year’s fifth-graders at U.S. Jones Elementary School become professional writers, novelists or playwrights, it shouldn’t be a surprise, as they did very well on this year’s Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing test.

In fact, this year’s scores are the best ever for U.S. Jones on the test, as 83 percent scored at or above standard scoring. Last year, 76 percent fared that well, the previous best score for the school.

“There were three forms or writing: descriptive, narrative and expository,” said U.S. Jones principal Dr. Tony Speegle. “Narrative is the easiest, because that’s like writing a letter, and 91 percent of our students scored at or above standard on that.”

There are four levels of achievement on the test, with Level IV being the highest, and Level III being standard. Of 172 students, 19 percent scored at Level IV, with 64 percent reaching Level III.

“When we went to AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative) last year, the fifth-grade teachers were all in one room,” Speegle said. “There was a presenter there from one of the Hoover schools. She asked us how many students we had reach Level IV, and our teachers told her we had 34 Level IVs, and (Hoover) didn’t have any fours. She asked our teachers a lot of questions after that; she basically picked their brains with every opportunity that she had.

“That was good for us, and good for our teachers. It just lets them know that they’re doing things the right way.”

U.S. Jones teachers found fun ways for the students to work on their writing.

“We have a book that the state department put out called ‘Blowing Away the State Writing Assessment,’” said fifth-grade teacher Tanya Patterson. “That gave us lots of tips to use in the classroom to get the kids excited about writing. We also have a book that helped us organize called ‘Four Square Writing.’

“For example, we did descriptive writing one day where they had to describe how to build an ice cream sundae, and we actually brought in ice cream and let them decorate it with sprinkles and things like that. It helped make it hands-on for them, and that makes it more exciting for them.”

Each of Demopolis’s schools has had an outstanding year, and U.S. Jones Elementary finished the school year with an outstanding outcome in the state writing assessment test.