The CCSS, in theory, requires more writing, but the truth is, the assessments have put writing to the side of reading and, as a result, is not on the radar of technocrats policing schools. The result, there is a limited amount of writing instruction occurring in U.S. schools. I read about this while in Kentucky, but I was there during the portfolio years. It wasn't until I returned to NY that I realized how the books were right...the research was correct...the rumors were true - kids rarely write in school. Moving to Connecticut, I learned more of the same (even if they felt, like NY, that their state tests were superior). Of course, this was pre-CCSS and SBAC. And yesterday, it was announced that Malloy's administration has shortened the test (definitely needed), but cut out the writing portion.
Okay, let's couple that with the removal of the SAT essay. Smart moves.
What will happen is inevitable. Writing will be further ignored and young people will be less prepared for college and career success. Writing is the key. Writing in ALL content areas is the key. Writing support for all teachers is the key. Writing in a wide variety of genres is the key. Writing everyday is the key, Writing with digital tools is the key.
You gotta write! A'ight?
This is why Joel Barlow students are fortunate. After spending another two days scoring junior portfolios one thing is clear: these kids are advantaged over their peer groups because their district has continued to invest in writing instruction, a writing center, and writing support. Comments from scorers from many districts stated things like, "This was irreplaceable professional development. Our kids aren't even close to writing at the level of these kids." They also stated, "These kids know themselves as writers. They know audiences and purpose. They are so prepared for life after high school." Then many lamented, "But our district will never go for it. They will continue to push test-only materials on us that don't work and are completely worthless for the needs of kids."
These comments are coming from urban, rural, and suburban schools.
Every year when I leave Redding, I think to myself, "I am rejuvenated for what is possible." Yesterday's drive home, however, was a little more frustrated, because they announced the removal of the only assessment of writing in the state. It is wrong. When I think about the sophisticated and mature conversations teachers had after reading a wide variety of writing in multiple portfolios over the last few days and contrast it with the dreary, mind-numbing, and purposeless mandates for teaching to the tests I feel the steam pouring out of my ears.
I have to collect my thoughts and pull in the literature. This OpEd needs to be written for kids, teachers, and parents. Forget the state. Futures depend on it.