Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

ESSA Overlooks the Importance of Creative Writing in the Classroom

January 12, 2016 1 min read

To the Editor:

The Every Student Succeeds Act, while an improvement over No Child Left Behind, will likely do little to fundamentally change the way students prepare for standardized writing tests. All children may succeed, perhaps, but only if they write nonfiction.

Conventional wisdom has long dictated that students must write nonfiction prose in order to do well on, or even pass, standardized writing tests. Look through most test-prep books or websites and you’ll find only one flavor of exemplary writing: nonfiction prose. This narrow definition of successful writing excludes too many student writers, especially those who do their best thinking and writing in alternative genres.

Limiting classroom instruction to nonfiction essays can limit students to a prefabricated writing style that curtails their written exploration of topics. In following central narratives or protagonists, student writers of fiction tend to bring more depth and focus to their responses than do those who write five-paragraph essays. Creative writers introduce counterarguments through the voices of different characters. Such authors are better able to see issues from multiple perspectives because they write from viewpoints different from their own, and they often arrive at more sophisticated conclusions than those students who write nonfiction essays only from their personal experiences. Students who craft free-verse poetry are already a far distance from formulaic essay-style writing.

Of course, creative writing does not guarantee high test scores. But teachers of remedial students may find they can re-engage reluctant writers with an invitation to write poetry or tell stories. Teachers of the gifted may find their best students liberated and challenged by the option of writing creatively. Anyone—gifted or struggling—can tell a story, and anyone can write a poem.

If we limit students to writing nonfiction in the classroom in response to the requirements of standardized writing tests, we will miss precious opportunities to develop critical thinking, character, and creativity.

Mike Miller

Teacher

English Department

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Alexandria, Va.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 2016 edition of Education Week as ESSA Overlooks the Importance of Creative Writing in the Classroom

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Benefits to All of Education
Join Dr. Susan Brady for an enlightening discussion about why and how this has happened and steps to bring the gains from science to teac...
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Using Data to Inform Writing Instruction: Addressing Learning Loss Caused by COVID-19 Disruption
Discover how a new writing achievement tool provides a benchmark to measure students’ writing progress.
Content provided by Texthelp
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Los Lunas Schools Closes Student Literacy Gaps
Recognizing that improvement was needed to help special education students reach literacy goals, Los Lunas Schools found an intensive, co...
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning
Reading & Literacy Opinion 17 Approaches for Encouraging Students to Revise Their Writing
Five educators offer instructional strategies to use when teaching writing revision, including the power of an authentic audience.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty