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Illinois's Education Boards Join Forces

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Springfield, Ill.--Worried about the poor writing skills demonstrated by Illinois students from grade school through graduate school, the state board of education has decided to work with its higher-education counterpart to place more emphasis on the teaching and learning of writing.

Recommendations Approved

Both the state board and the Illinois Board of Higher Education have approved the recommendations of a special task force on writing skills set up by the joint education committee of the two boards, a panel that studies concerns encompassing all levels of public education in Illinois.

Among the areas the panel recommended be given special attention are teacher-preparation programs, in-service training and professional development programs for teachers, how writing instruction fits into the overall curriculum, research on writing, and the assessment of student writing skills.

Under resolutions approved by both boards, the state board of education, in reviewing and approving teacher-education programs, will place more emphasis on preparing teacher-candidates to teach writing. The board of higher education--which has no regulatory authority over Illinois colleges and universities, but has an effective information-gathering and analysis capacity--is to help institutions in their efforts to prepare prospective teachers to teach writing skills in public schools.

Similarly, both boards have agreed to work toward strengthening in-service programs for education professors and teachers.

The state board, according to the approved recommendations, is to coordinate efforts among school districts, institutions of higher education, and teacher and other professional organizations to develop curricular models, to identify what writing skills should be taught at what levels, and to prepare a sequence of writing instruction across grade levels.

Both boards intend to work with teachers and administrators to stress that the responsibility of improving writing skills must be shared by teachers from all fields, not just by writing instructors.

The boards plan to sponsor research that will investigate how schools can foster good writing, what teaching methods are most effective, and how assessments of student writing can be improved.

Writing Standards

To this last end, the state board intends to add writing to the list of disciplines it now tests regularly to measure student achievement. By initiating such assessments, it hopes to gauge trends in the writing ability of elementary and secondary students. The board also plans to urge local districts to establish standards for student writing skills and to test each student in at least two elementary grades and one secondary grade.

At the same time, the board of higher education is to assess the teaching and learning of writing skills in all college composition courses.

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