Want Students to Succeed in College? Teach Them to Write in K-12
A new nonprofit has the potential to profoundly improve educational outcomes —including college completion— for low-income students. Called The Writing Revolution, the organization exists for one simple and powerful purpose: to teach K-12 children to think and write clearly.
Teaching kids to write seems like a universal goal of our educational system. Yet it is not being met. Millions of students are graduating from high school lacking this fundamental skill.
In fact, 3 out of 4 U.S. high school seniors cannot write coherent sentences or paragraphs, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). More specifically, NAEP results show that only 24 percent of 12th graders demonstrate “the ability to accomplish the communicative purpose of their writing.”
The fact that 76 percent of our high school seniors cannot effectively communicate in writing is inextricably linked to our nation’s abysmally low college readiness and completion rates.
The Writing Revolution is based on a method of writing instruction developed for learning-disabled students by Judith Hochman.
A “consistent and structured” approach
Hochman had a strong hunch that the same things that made her method so effective for learning-disabled students could also help students from lower-income families. Both groups often lack the rich linguistic skills needed to inform their written expression. As such, both groups can benefit immensely from consistent and structured exposure to the building blocks of language use.
Sentence composition is at the core of the Hochman Method of writing instruction.
… students learn that what words they use matter, and so does the order in which they use them. With enough practice, virtually every student who uses Hochman’s method gets better at turning words into meaningful sentences. Students then learn to use conjunctions and clauses to expand those sentences and make them more information-rich.
Over time students learn to combine these information-rich sentences into paragraphs, and their paragraphs into essays. In that process, students learn to recognize what information is most salient to an argument, to take effective notes on what they hear and read, and to create complex outlines of their ideas. The Hochman Method enables students to constantly hone skills that are extremely relevant to academic success in K-12 and in college classrooms.
The program is being piloted in four Washington DC public schools, with initial reports calling it a transformative process.
I believe most students from all levels of income and ability could benefit from a “consistent and structured” approach like the Hochman Method, particularly after having observed “so many approaches used and so much time wasted in our public schools’ writing curriculum”,
- “Revolutionary writing instruction that is ‘an old idea done better’” (Cost of College)
- “The Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’” (Cost of College)