Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Here's advice from a talented teacher in the Midlands, seconding the motion (Jan. 26 GoBigEd) about getting rid of government-driven writing assessment programs and going back to what works: teacher-driven writing assessment. This would be an excellent message to share with your school board and the N.U. Board of Regents, the people responsible for what's being taught (and NOT taught) in University of Nebraska teacher education classes.

The teacher writes:

''Writing instruction in K-12 is flawed for one main reason, thanks to the instruction that many teachers received in college: it's dumbed down. In college, I was taught (or asked) to 'disregard' spelling and grammar in correcting student writing, mainly because it damaged self-esteem and
inhibited creativity. Teachers are encouraged to give assignments that lead to less work for the teacher. Assign group work, we're told. I just wonder: how do you practice writing skills by writing in a group?

''In my opinion, high school writing should be geared toward preparing kids for college. Spelling, grammar, organization, and word choice should count more than ever during the high school years. Unfortunately, I find that many English teachers are more excited to award points based on effort rather than the presentation of the finished product.

''When I went to college, I was shocked to find that many of the girls in my dorm were unable to write simple essays or research papers because they were never taught how in high school. What are these kids doing during the four years before college?

''Writing skill also need to be a focus in ALL classes, not just English. Sure, papers are assigned in other classes, but they're usually just counted as busy work or a participation grade. Seldom do non-English teachers grade down due to the organization, spelling, or grammar in a paper.

''I've been out of college for ten years, and I've been repeating the same complaint for ten years: education classes in college need to be less influenced by liberal politics. I spent more time in college writing 'feel good' reflection papers and not enough time actually learning how to teach.
I've heard this complaint from nearly all my colleagues. Low college standards lead to teachers having low expectations of their students because they actually think the self-esteem movement is a good thing.

''Not this teacher!''

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