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Florida Launches $6-Million Writing Program for Seniors

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If high-school students in Florida begin complaining of writer's cramp, credit--or blame--should probably go to the state's recently implemented "writing enhancement program."

With a budget of $6 million for the 1981-82 school year, the program is getting underway in high-school "language-arts" classes in 42 Florida districts.

The "writing enhancement program," born of legislation introduced by State Senator Jack Gordon, makes state funds available to any district that wants to increase the amount of writing done by students in their final required year of "language arts"--without increasing teachers' workload.

To make certain that this occurs, the legislation specifies that students must write one paper each week, that classes may include no more than 25 students, and that teachers may teach a maximum of 100 students per day.

The bulk of state funds for the program will go toward hiring the extra teachers it will require. This year, 100,000 students in the 11th or 12th grades--depending on the district--will generate 3.6 million papers.

The plan dictates no state-wide curriculum, other than one paper per week, since state officials intend the writing to be incorporated into existing language-arts curricula. If a district elects to participate, all its high schools must be included.

The $6 million will enable districts to hire the additional language-arts teachers needed to adhere to program requirements without swamping teachers with papers that must be read and graded.

The Department of Education spokesperson said that the department has no precise figures on how many new teachers will be needed, but the number could go as high as 200 since the state allowed $18,000 per teacher.

The program was not created in response to any particular problems in Florida, state education officials say; rather, it grew from an increased national awareness of the importance of writing well.

The officials hope to expand the program next year to include all 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-grade required language-arts classes. They are requesting $15 million from the Florida Legislature to fund it for the 1982-83 school year.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education says that state officials are not aware of any similar programs in other states.--S.W.

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