Students’ Writing Skills Found ‘Distressingly’ Poor by NAEP

By Blake Rodman — July 23, 2019 1 min read


“We are all going to be disappointed by [the data],” Mr. Lapointe said. “We have a long way to go in the teaching of writing in the United States.”

Mr. Lapointe—an employee of the Educational Testing Service, which administers the national assessments—previewed the study’s finding here last week at the annual convention of the National Catholic Educational Association. A report on the findings is scheduled for release April 12.

The report will include results from writing assessments administered to a national sample of students ages 9, 13, and 17 in 1973-74, 1978-79, and 1983-84.

Mr. Lapointe said that he and his associates at NAEP had been “arguing” among themselves over whether they should describe the results as “disappointingly” or “distressingly” poor.

“Regardless of what adverb we put in front,” he said, the study results “are going to be bad news.”

The study complements a NAEP report on students’ reading abilities released last fall.

NAEP, a Congressionally mandated assessment program funded by the Education Department, has been measuring attainment in reading and other subjects since 1969. It is the only national survey of educational achievement among schoolchildren in grades K-12 that is conducted regularly.

Mr. LaPointe offered few details about the forthcoming writing report, but he noted that the study found an “amazing” relationship between student performance and teacher behavior.

About 75 percent of students say their teachers correct their papers for spelling and grammar.

Consequently, he said, “youngsters perform well in spelling and grammar.”

Fewer than one out of three students, however, say their teachers discuss “the quality of their ideas” with them and ask them to rewrite passages to make the writing clearer, according to Mr. LaPointe.

As a result, “less than one-third of the students do well in that area,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the April 09, 1986 edition of Education Week


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