The Most Important Skill: Writing?

From The Atlantic:

New Dorp’s Writing Revolution, which placed an intense focus, across nearly every academic subject, on teaching the skills that underlie good analytical writing, was a dramatic departure from what most American students—especially low performers—are taught in high school. The program challenged long-held assumptions about the students and bitterly divided the staff. It also yielded extraordinary results. By the time they were sophomores, the students who had begun receiving the writing instruction as freshmen were already scoring higher on exams than any previous New Dorp class. Pass rates for the English Regents, for example, bounced from 67 percent in June 2009 to 89 percent in 2011; for the global-­history exam, pass rates rose from 64 to 75 percent. The school reduced its Regents-repeater classes—cram courses designed to help struggling students collect a graduation requirement—from five classes of 35 students to two classes of 20 students.

In a profoundly hopeful irony, New Dorp’s re­emergence as a viable institution has hinged not on a radical new innovation but on an old idea done better. The school’s success suggests that perhaps certain instructional fundamentals—fundamentals that schools have devalued or forgotten—need to be rediscovered, updated, and reintroduced. And if that can be done correctly, traditional instruction delivered by the teachers already in classrooms may turn out to be the most powerful lever we have for improving school performance after all.

This is a powerful story.

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Ami Wazlawik

I do think that writing is an important skill and one that many of us could work to improve. I’m actually a bit surprised by the varying levels of writing ability that I’ve seen in both academic and professional settings. I think our education system as a whole needs to place far more emphasis on teaching children and youth writing skills – from basics like spelling, grammar, and the use of punctuation to analytical and persuasive writing. And our institutions of higher education and workplaces need to do a better job of supporting further development of these skills as well.

Laura L Groce

I work in an office where good writing skills are a must, and I review a LOT of written work by others, and it is a constant challenge to get good quality writing. But this article gives me an idea about using a different approach and placing more emphasis on analytical thinking, which could be a significant factor to improving the quality of writing here.

Jerry Schmidt

Being of a certain advanced age (nearly 50 years on this rock) I have had to deal with writing being incredibly important to being less important to being very important again. I work in Public Relations and have to proof my own writing as well as the writings of co-workers. I find that I am harder on myself than I am on them (they are all at least twenty years younger); I don’t really understand why, but I have found that in some age groups, writing was never emphasized. I give them considerable more leeway than I give myself. I was instructed back in the old days; we still had to diagram sentences and go into maddening detail with regards to parts of speech and punctuation. I know that this has been de-emphasized in education over the last two decades (at least from what I can ascertain) and I (sadly) have to accept it and correct language and grammar as needed. It’s just a fact of life; it’s good to know that there are places where writing discipline (indeed, any academic discipline) is being emphasized.