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YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?: National Writing Commission Calls for New Emphasis on Writing Skills

"The writing weaknesses of incoming college students costs our campuses up to $1 billion annually. And business leaders complain about the writing skills of new employees,

“American education will never realize its potential as an engine of opportunity and economic growth until a writing revolution puts language and communication in their proper place in the classroom.” So begins The Neglected “R”: The Need for a Writing Revolution, a new report by the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges.

Noting that nearly 66 percent of high school seniors do not write a three-page paper even as often as once a month in their English classes,The Neglected “R” calls for a dramatic increase in the amount of time and money that school districts devote to student writing. The report also argues that English class should not be the only time that students are asked to put words on paper. It notes that a full 75 percent of high school seniors never receive a writing assignment in history or social studies, and asks for a change in state and local guidelines that would require writing in every curriculum at all grade levels.

Without nurturing and building a student’s writing skill in his early years of schooling, the task is passed on to colleges and the business world. According to the report, more than 50 percent of college freshmen are unable to produce papers relatively free of language errors or to analyze arguments or synthesize information. “The writing weaknesses of incoming college students costs our campuses up to $1 billion annually. And business leaders complain about the writing skills of new employees,” said Commission Chairman C. Peter Magrath, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

Along with the report’s release, the commission announced the launch of a campaign, the Writing Challenge to the Nation, which will work to implement the report’s findings. No stranger to campaigns himself, former senator Bob Kerrey will lead the effort.

To download the report, visit the commission at

National Writing Project Helps Teachers

The National Writing Project (NWP), a nationwide professional development program for teachers, was founded in 1974 at the University of California, Berkeley. Currently located in approximately 175 sites throughout all 50 states, NWP works to enhance student achievement by improving the teaching of writing in the nation’s schools.

The National Writing Project receives federal funding, which it passes along in grants to local sites that operate from university campuses and collaborate with surrounding schools and districts. These sites operate on a teachers-teaching-teachers model: successful teachers attend invitational summer institutes, where they can examine their classroom practices, conduct research, and develop their own writing skills; then, during the following school year, these teachers provide professional development workshops for other educators in their local schools and communities.

Collectively, these sites serve approximately 100,000 teachers every year, grades kindergarten through university, in all disciplines. The NWP model is based on three major principles: that teachers are the key to education reform, that teachers make the best educators of other teachers, and that teachers benefit from studying and conducting research.

Additional information about the National Writing Project is available at


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