Addison and McGee in Addison, “Writing in High School/Writing in College. Research Trends and Future Directions” remind us that high stake testing is driving k-12 instruction. (152) This obviously translates to writing assignments of shorter length since standardized testing is limited in scope. In particular, they point to the research of Applebee and Langer that “conclude that students are simply not writing enough to prepare them for the demands of postsecondary education. For college faculty, this means that students are coming to higher education without the muscle for longer writing assignments. (It is hard not to note the irony here, as just last week our class was discussing the value of teaching using the shortest text message.)
As a high school teacher, I feel compelled to address this situation. Students cannot graduate high school unless they pass five major subject regent exams. Naturally, the English regents is heavily writing based. According to my estimation, a student would not want to allot more than an hour and fifteen minutes to the larger of the two essays that students have to write. This is what we must drill for our students, as this is what the school, faculty, and students are judged on. NSSE’s, or the National Survey of Student Engagement’s benchmarks include “high-order writing”. (On a different note, teachers are evaluated on the Danielson rubric which includes higher-order questioning techniques.) NSSE defines this as “assignments involving summarization, analysis, and argument.” (153) Part 2 of the Common Core English Regents is an argument, which does require all three of these skills. Part 3, a text-analysis response, while not including the argument, does demand the ability to summarize, analyze and persuade. Furthermore, as you can guess, the common core learning standards, for grades 9-12, call for students writing arguments (w1a-e) and informative/explanatory texts (w2a-f) and narratives (w3a-f). In short, my point is that even though students are not writing longer works in high school, they are engaging in higher order thinking, reading and writing.
Another thing that I found telling (and believable) about this text is that there is a discrepancy between what high school students and faculty report as to what writing of drafts and conferencing was done: “. . . while 30% of high school faculty report “always” requiring multiple drafts, only 16% of high school student report “always” writing multiple drafts. And while 31% of high school faculty report “always” conferencing with students on papers in progress, only 12% of high school students report “always” discussing their writing with their teacher. . . (159)
Why is there this difference between what high school teachers and students perceive? This article does not attempt to explain this. Still, I would like to try based on my experience as an educator. As teachers plan lessons, they are consciously aware of pre-writing activities, drafts and subsequent conferencing in written and oral feedback form. Students, on the other hand, may not be cognizant of the overall scaffolding of instruction. This may be partially due to their newness to the writing process, their youth and even, absenteeism.
Closely related to the difference in the way students and faculty perceive what happens in the class’s writing process are the statistics showing the disagreement about students’ writing abilities in both high school and college. Table 4 shows how high school students are rated by the faculty and themselves. (160) A 5 equals very satisfied, while a 1 equals very dissatisfied. 2.73 was the mean college faculty rating for juniors/ seniors for the ability to analyze data/ideas/arguments. Interestingly enough, these same students’ mean college rating for themselves was 4.19. Again, why the difference in perception? Perhaps students need to see models of exemplary writing. Specifically, a variety of levels of writing samples should be evaluated, in conjunction with assignment rubrics. This facilitates clear expectations and good instructor practices, as reflective of NSSE’s benchmarks. (153)
According to this article, the success of freshman and sophomore high school teachers is partially due to the fact that more informal writings, like reflections and journals, are assigned. (164) By these writing activities, students are made aware of their own identities, as well as, their writing process. Table 2 shows that 34% of high school faculty reported that students were always provided the opportunity to reflect and evaluate their own writing, while only 23% of college faculty reported that they always did so. (158) I understand this as part of the scaffolding process of writing from public school to the higher education of colleges and universities. As students graduate to the next level, they must become more capable of writing