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The figures below present the NAEP 2002 writing results for public- and nonpublic-school students in the nation at grades 4, 8, and 12. Average scores on the NAEP writing composite scale range from 0 to 300. In addition to the results from the 2002 writing assessment, results are presented from 1998 for the nation at all three grades.
Figure 1 displays the average writing scores from 1998 and 2002 for fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders. Results for each grade are scaled independently; therefore, cross-grade score comparisons cannot be made. Students' average scores on the NAEP writing assessment increased between 1998 and 2002 at grades 4 and 8. However, there was no significant change detected in the performance of twelfth-graders between the two assessment years.
Another way to view students' performance is by looking at how scores have changed across the performance distribution. An examination of scores at different percentiles on the 0-300 writing scale at each grade indicates whether or not the changes seen in the overall national average score results are reflected in the performance of lower-, middle-, and higher-performing students. Results for each grade are scaled independently; therefore, cross-grade score comparisons cannot be made. Figure 2 shows the average writing scale score for students scoring at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles at all three grade levels. The percentile indicates the percentage of students whose scores fell below a particular point on the NAEP writing scale.
Increases in fourth-grade writing scores were observed across the distribution. Gains were observed among the middle- and higher-performing students at grade 8; no significant changes were detected at the 10th and 25th percentiles. At grade 12, only the score at the 90th percentile increased since 1998, while scores at the 10th and 25th percentiles were lower in 2002.