The Writing Revolution

When a failing high school tries to reinvent itself, it turns to writing — with amazing results.

At my own high school, our science teacher was a retired nuclear submarine admiral who used to say, “Give me students who can read and write, and I can teach them to pilot a nuclear submarine.” So I’m not at all surprised that teaching students to write better made a difference across the curriculum at New Dorp.

New Dorp’s Writing Revolution, which placed an intense focus, across nearly every academic subject, on teaching the skills that underlie good analytical writing, was a dramatic departure from what most American students—especially low performers—are taught in high school. The program challenged long-held assumptions about the students and bitterly divided the staff. It also yielded extraordinary results. By the time they were sophomores, the students who had begun receiving the writing instruction as freshmen were already scoring higher on exams than any previous New Dorp class. Pass rates for the English Regents, for example, bounced from 67 percent in June 2009 to 89 percent in 2011; for the global-­history exam, pass rates rose from 64 to 75 percent. The school reduced its Regents-repeater classes—cram courses designed to help struggling students collect a graduation requirement—from five classes of 35 students to two classes of 20 students. — The Writing Revolution – Peg Tyre – The Atlantic.

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