Writing Boosts Achievement

By Douglas B. Reeves

There are no silver bullets in education. But writing -- particularly nonfiction writing -- is about as close as you can get to a single strategy that has significant and positive effects in nearly every other area of the curriculum. Nonfiction writing is the backbone of a successful literacy and student achievement strategy.

Research over the past decade from Columbia and Vanderbilt universities and the University of Utah, among many others, concludes that, when students improve the quantity and quality of their writing, they improve in reading comprehension, math, science, and social studies.

The cost of poor writing

Employers spend more than $3 billion each year teaching writing skills to employees, much of which could be saved if schools and students devoted more time and attention to writing. A majority of college professors report that many of their students, even though they qualified for admission to a college or university, are unprepared for the rigors of college-level writing and thus consume time and resources on remedial writing courses.

At the other end of the grade-level spectrum, elementary teachers report that, while their students are reading fluently and quickly, they continue to struggle with reading comprehension, particularly for complex informational texts. Certainly, nothing is wrong with strong phonics-based reading programs. They are necessary elements of a comprehensive literacy curriculum, but more is needed. Reading quickly and clearly is nice, but hardly an accomplishment when students do not understand the information they are reading.

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