National Writing Project

What Is Happening in the Teaching of Writing?

Publication: English Journal
Date: May 2009

Summary: The authors analyze data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) spanning the years 1969–2007. They draw conclusions about writing proficiency, the amount of time devoted to writing and the teaching of writing, the frequency of writing in academic subjects, and the amount and quality of professional development—calling attention to the impact of NWP.



What students say they do and what they actually do are not always the same. On some of the writing assessments, students were encouraged to use an extra blank page for planning before they began to write, and these pages were scored for the number of different activities students demonstrated.

Over time, the use of this prewriting space for NAEP tasks has changed dramatically (see fig. 7). In 1984, a few of the assignments in the assessment left a blank page for the students to make notes or outlines, but fewer than 20% of Grade 8 or Grade 11 students made use of the space. Since 1992, every task has provided room for prewriting.

(From 1998 on, students were also given a separate brochure that emphasized the importance of selected planning and revising strategies.) In these later assessments, many more students made at least some use of the space provided. Even with the differences in test administration, students' tendency to do some overt planning before they begin to write seems to have increased across this 23-year time span.

Copyright © 2009 by the National Council of Teachers of English.
Posted with permission. Applebee, N. Arthur, and Judith A. Langer. 2009. "What Is Happening in the Teaching of Writing." English Journal 98 (5): 18–28.

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