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EDUCATION REPORT - June 12, 2003: Commission Finds Poor Writing in U.S. Schools - 2003-06-11

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A report by educators in the United States says students in American schools and colleges need to write better. The National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges produced the report. The commission includes university leaders, public school officials, teachers and writing experts. A private organization, the College Board, established the commission.

The report says writing helps people think more clearly and is necessary for educational and professional success. But it says many schools are not giving enough attention to writing. It says students are getting fewer writing projects from their teachers. Many teachers say they have too many students and not enough time to grade their work.

The commission found that most fourth-grade students spend less than three hours a week writing. It says they spend many more hours watching television.

It says about two-thirds of the nation’s twelfth-grade students write a three-page paper less often than once a month in their English classes. And seventy-five percent of high school seniors never receive a writing project in history or social studies classes.

Further, recent studies found that more than fifty-percent of students in their first year of college could not put together information well enough to be communicated clearly to someone else. And the report said most of the writing contained language mistakes.

Twenty years ago, the government released a report about problems in the educational system in the United States. A reform movement followed, but most efforts were put into teaching reading and math.

Experts say that is changing now, because employers and teachers are deeply concerned about the writing skills of American students.

Programs are increasing throughout the nation to aid teachers. And both of the major college-entrance tests, the S-A-T and the A-C-T, are being changed to include writing tests.

The commission’s report is to be followed by a five-year campaign led by former Senator Bob Kerrey to put its suggestions into effect. The campaign will urge lawmakers and educators to increase writing programs in schools. The commission also calls on educators and businesses to work together to develop technology to help teach writing and measure writing quality.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Cynthia Kirk.