Write-minded: New Report Identifies Top Writing Strategies
In 2002, the National Assessment of Educational Progress tested writing skills in 4th, 8th and 12th grade students. Using newspaper articles, photographs, cartoons, letters and poems to stimulate writing, the NAEP asked students to write for three main purposes: narrative, information, and persuasive. The test was administered to 139,000 4th graders, 119,000 8th graders, and 19,000 12th graders.
The results indicated that only 28 percent of 4th graders, 21 percent of 8th graders, and 22 percent of 12th graders scored at or above the proficient level.While both 4th and 8th graders demonstrated small improvement from scores taken in 1998, the difference in scores for the high school seniors was statistically insignificant.
In an information-based economy, having a workforce unskilled in written communications is costly. In 2005, the College Board’s National Commission on Writing estimated that private companies spend more than $3 billion each year to teach employees how to write.
Motivated by a desire to strengthen the writing skills of U.S. students, a new report co-authored by Steve Graham, Currey Ingram Professor of Special Education, has identified 11 strategies to improve the writing skills of the nation’s adolescents. The report was presented at a briefing Oct. 19 in Washington, D.C. Graham’s co-author is Dolores Perin, associate professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
“We undertook this research to determine what we could do to change writing achievement and writing instruction in this country,” Graham said. “We’ve identified 11 strategies as being effective at teaching students how to write and improve their achievement.”
The report, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School, is designed to address this critical shortfall in student learning and achievement. It was released by the Alliance for Excellent Education and commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York. The report is a companion publication to the Alliance’s 2004 report, Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy. “Reading proficiency is just half the literacy picture,” Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and Alliance president, said. “We have to widen the literacy spotlight to include writing as well as reading. Increasing students’ writing abilities increases their literacy abilities, which in turn, increases the likelihood that they will stay in school and graduate. And that means they have a much better chance for future success.”
Graham and Perin conducted a meta-analysis of existing experimental and quasi-experimental research on a variety of writing instructional methods and were able to glean from this comparison data the most effective strategies. The last such comprehensive review of the research literature was conducted by George Hillocks 20 years ago, Graham noted.
Reprinted with the permission of Peabody College. © 2006, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University.
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