Is it the test-takers – or the test?

A statewide writing test given to more than 200,000 fourth- and seventh-graders yielded disappointing results this year – but North Carolina threw out the results after determining the exam wasn't written clearly enough.

Only 47 percent of the fourth-graders passed the single-essay test, down from 69 percent the previous year; 63 percent of seventh-graders passed, a decline of 10 percent.

The drop was attributed to poor wording of the essay question for the fourth-graders and an increase in the amount of time given to the test-takers.

Some education officials told the board that the question asking students to "write about a time you had a great day at school" may have prompted them to write a list of activities rather than an essay.

And the extra time may have led them to add sentences to the end of their essays after they found out they had remaining time, said Lou Fabrizio, head of testing for the state Department of Public Instruction.

The state board of education voted 9 to 1 to discard the results and ensure that teachers and schools are not penalized.

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