Why the Common Core Suddenly Stresses Writing

In the past few decades American education focused very heavily on reading comprehension as the path to learning, while writing received relatively less attention. The negative results of this trend have been chronicled for a long time.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing exam, last given in 2002, showed that 69% of 8th graders and 77% of 12th graders were not proficient in writing at grade level (Perskey, Danne & Jinn, 2003). Approximately one third of students entering college require remedial classes in English Composition, and the percentage rises to approximately 50% among certain minorities. Poor writing also contributes to unflattering comparisons between U.S. graduates in literacy and their peers in most industrialized nations. (OECD, 2000).

College professors have been complaining for decades about the poor writing skills among their entering Freshman class.  However, it is only recently that we understand that the lack of writing skills among American students is not simply hampering their ability to communicate, but also is hampering their ability to learn. Research confirms that whether it is literature, history or science, writing requires higher order thinking skills to reflect, analyze and organize information from text in order to communicate it.  More than reading, it is writing that leads to a deeper understanding of content (Boscol &, Mason, 2001; Keys, 2000; Shanahan, 2004). As the National Commission on Writing summarizes, “If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts, and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else. In short, if students are to learn, they must write.”

Writing skills have even been shown to improve basic reading skills (Graham & Herbert, 2010; Biancarosa & Snow,2004). For these reasons the new Common Core State Standards in education have shifted to a heavy emphasis on writing embedded with the reading curriculum, beginning even in first and second grade. The Common Core also stresses writing to improve learning in non-fiction subjects, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Like decades past, reading is a path to learning, but unlike the past, we now know that combining reading with writing is the clear path to superior learning.

With the proliferation of electronic communications accelerating the speed of business, employees at all levels of the organization are being asked to review and respond more rapidly than ever before. The ability to analyze, organize and communicate information is increasingly the key to better employment and upward mobility. The professors in college have now been joined by the majority of employers in America in confirming that writing skills have become critical in the workplace (Graham & Perin, 2007). Writing as a key to learning and writing as a key to communication has increasingly become a dividing line not just between higher and lower paying positions, but between working and being unemployed.

At New Century, we provide highly effective interventions that make it easy for teachers to teach writing to deeply at-risk students. Moreover, we are pleased to have been ahead of this new trend in standards for several years by embedding writing with reading, including primarily non-fiction topics in reading and writing, with STEM content, and teaching the three forms of essays required by the Common Core. For more information, visit us at www.newcenturyeducation.org.

 

End Notes

Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C.E. (2004). Reading next: A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Allicance for Excellent Education.

Boscolo, P. & Mason, L. (2001). Writing to learn, writing to transfer. In G. Rijhaarsdam, P. Tynjala, L. Mason, & K. Lonka (Eds.), Studies in writing: Vol. 7. Writing as a learning tool: Integrating the theory and practice (pp. 83-104). Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Graham, S. & Herbert, M. (2010) Writing to Read, Evidence of how writing can improve reading: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Graham, S. & Perin, D. (2007) Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Keys, C.W. (2000). Investigating the thinking processes of eighth grade writers during the composition of a scientific laboratory report. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 676-690.

National Commission on Writing. (2003), April). The neglected R: The need for a writing revolution. Retrieved July 31, 2006, from http://www.writing commission.org/report.html

OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). (2000). Literacy in the information age: Final report of the international adult literacy survey. Paris, France; Retrieved July 31, 2006, from http://www1.oecd.org/publications/e-book/8100051E.pdf

Persky, H.R., Daane, M.C., & Jin, Y. (2003). The nation’s report card: Writing 2002. (NCES 2003-529). U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences. National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC; Government Printing Office.

Shanahan, T. (2004). Overcoming the dominance of communication: Writing to think and to learn. In T.L.Jetton & J.A. Dole (Eds.). Adolescent literacy research and practice (pp. 59-73). New York: Guilford.