BEND, Ore. - E-mails, texts, posting to social media -- in a world of constant communication, why are students struggling to write well in school?
"The most significant drop is in writing at the high school level," Bend La-Pine Schools Superintendent Ron Wilkinson said Friday.
He is talking about last spring's student tests scores recently released by the Oregon Department of Education.
Results show only about 60 percent of juniors statewide passed the writing exam, down seven percent from the year before.
It's a similar situation here on the High Desert, five percent fewer Redmond juniors passed the writing portion, and Bend La-Pine Schools did worse.
The number of students passing the writing exam dropped by nearly 10 percent.
One of the biggest hits came to Bend High School.
O.D.E. officials recently called principal H.D. Weddel, asking him why 23 percent more of his students failed the writing test.
"(They asked) why did you drop so much, and why are your other scores so high?," Weddel explained. "I don't know, I don't have all of the answers. We need to roll up our sleeves and get after it, we got to take all those kids and start working on them."
Weddel said those same kids scored fairly high on the ACT writing tests, he thinks the drop could be partly due to a fluke.
And both he and Wilkinson echo the explanation offered by O.D.E. Deputy Superintendent: it was the first year with new test rules.
"Students were given less opportunity to improve their score, which is what's been the case in the past, they could take the test in ninth and tenth grade," Wilkinson said.
Others criticize the test itself.
"Some of the subjects were not as relatable as other ones were, so it was hit or miss," said Bend High Senior Leah Galloway.
Waddel agrees that topics can be boring for students.
"I don't think the prompts are very good, they're kind of ridiculous in some ways," he said.
But students must pass the writing exam to graduate.
While school officials say they'll be ramping up efforts to improve students' writing abilities, they're also celebrating achievements.
Wilkinson said the district continues to perform exceptionally well in math and reading, and Waddel said Bend High scored well in math, reading and science.
"Just about 90 percent in our math scores, and a few years ago we were in the 50's," Waddel said.
Other school districts around Central Oregon also saw disappointing numbers on the writing test.
Sisters juniors' pass rate fell by 4 percent, Crook County School District was down 19 percent, and Jefferson County School District saw a drop by 28 percent.
For a complete list of school scores and results for all four subjects, visit http://www.ode.state.or.us/apps/BulkDownload/BulkDownload.Web/.