Reading & Literacy

Survey: Instructor Views Differ On Import of Grammar

By Sean Cavanagh — April 16, 2003 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The writing skills that college English professors consider most essential— correct grammar and usage—are not deemed as important to high school teachers, a new survey shows.

Read a release on the curriculum survey results, from ACT.

That disconnect may be one reason so many high school students need remedial work in writing when they get to college campuses, according to researchers from the ACT, who documented the findings in their National Curriculum Survey, released last week.

ACT officials say the insights on grammar and usage will help them as they reshape their college-entrance exam to add an optional, 30- minute writing test sometime during the 2004-05 school year.

Cynthia Schmeiser, the ACT’s vice president for development, said the new results of the survey, which the organization conducts every three or four years, generally showed broad agreement between college faculty members and high school teachers on what writing skills are most important. On grammar and usage, however, those views diverged sharply.

Nationwide, 828 high school English and language arts teachers completed the survey, along with 910 college English and composition teachers and 189 college staff members who teach English as a second language and developmental English.

Skills Ranked

Respondents were asked to rank six areas of writing skills by their importance: grammar and usage, sentence structure, writing strategy, organization, punctuation, and style.

For college instructors, grammar and usage placed first, as the most important skill; high school teachers ranked it sixth. By contrast, both the K-12 and college instructors ranked sentence structure second.

The disparity between high school and college perceptions on grammar and usage emerged in a 1998 curriculum survey by the ACT, when college instructors also ranked it No. 1, while the skill ranked sixth in the view of K-12 teachers. Those results differed sharply from 1994, when both groups put grammar and usage in third place.

The new survey did not pinpoint reasons for the divergent views, Ms. Schmeiser said. But the ACT vice president said her organization, based in Iowa City, Iowa, likely will try to answer that question in the months ahead in interviews with individual respondents.

Related Tags:


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
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.
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Nation's Second-Largest School System Plans to 'Embrace' the Science of Reading
Los Angeles Superintendent Alberto Carvalho's remarks also echo New York leaders' promises to support an early-reading overhaul.
3 min read
Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school district, comments on an external cyberattack on the LAUSD information systems during the Labor Day weekend, at a news conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. Despite the ransomware attack, schools in the nation's second-largest district opened as usual Tuesday morning.
Alberto Carvalho, who leads the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school district, speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on Sept. 6, 2022.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
Reading & Literacy As Revised Lucy Calkins Curriculum Launches, Educators Debate If Changes Are Sufficient
Researchers and educators who have reviewed excerpts offer mixed reviews on their potential to shift classroom instruction.
8 min read
Letters and a magnifying glass.