Our Students Can’t Write Very Well—It’s No Mystery Why

Jan 13, 2017 by

On NCEE, By Marc Tucker

My organization decided a few weeks back that we needed to hire a new professional staff person.  We had close to 500 applicants. Inasmuch as the task was to help us communicate information related to the work we do, we gave each of the candidates one of the reports we published last year and asked them to produce a one-page summary.  All were college graduates.  Only one could produce a satisfactory summary.  That person got the job.

We were lucky this time.  We are more often than not disappointed at the subpar writing ability of the applicants for openings at our organization.  Many applicants are from very good colleges.  Many have graduate degrees.  Many are very poor writers.

Their lack of writing ability does not auger well.  When we look at what they have written, the logic of the narrative is often very hard to find. It would appear that their lack of writing ability stands as mute testimony to their lack of thinking ability.

How, we ask, could this have happened?  The answers are not hard to find.  My friend Will Fitzhugh points out that high school students are rarely required to read entire works of fiction and are almost never asked to read entire works of non-fiction.  I know of no good writers who are not also good readers.

More directly to the point, high school students are hardly ever asked to write anything of significant length.  Why not?  Because in this age of accountability, they are not tested on their writing ability.  By which I mean that they are not asked to submit to the testing authorities 10- or 15- or 20-page papers in which they are expected to present a thesis and defend it, analyze something complicated from multiple points of view and draw a reasoned conclusion, or put together a short story in which characters are developed in some depth and insights are revealed.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/01/our_students_cant_write_very_wellits_no_mystery_why.html

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