Did You See the Article On The New 8th Grade Writing Scores?
In the New York Times the headline is "U.S. Students Achieve Mixed Results on Writing Test" (again I don’t want a long URL to create horrible blank spaces here, so just copy that and you’ll get the piece). I’m sure every paper has the same results, but the Times article ends up by speaking with Will FitzHugh — remember when he wrote a guest blog here? So we have a few things to consider — why do students do so poorly in writing (1/3 of 8th graders and just 1/4 of high school seniors were deemed "proficient?); is this a meaningful test? And why is it that girls do exactly twice at well at writing as boys?
It is true that the racial gaps have declined a bit, and that the very worst writers — those who made it to "basic" have improved. So maybe NCLB has had the effect of helping those who were furthest behind. And I really have no sense of how this results compares with twenty years ago, forty, one hundred. It may well be that having 1/4 of high school seniors able to write a decent paragraph is much better than we have ever done (or, for that matter, than any large nation has ever done).
And yet — why should boys be so far behind girls, and all our kids so limited in their writing skills? You can’t blame the internet and visual culture and American Idol for this — we are doing slightly better than before the 2.0 generation. On the boys front, I can’t help but think about nonfiction — nonfiction that models thinking, that models research, that models making a case, that models point of view, that models narrative skill; nonfiction that makes strong assertions that 8th graders, or high school kids, can engage with and challenge — I have to think that kind of nonfiction (which is also what Will gets from students and publishes in his magazine) would help raise kids awareness of what writing can be, what it can do.
What do you think?