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Do Our Students Need A 'Writing Revolution'?

If you've been following the common standards, you know that they portend some pretty big changes in literacy instruction. One of the most debated is what kinds of things students will have to write.

There is a major emphasis on writing that is tethered to evidence in text. This would include assignments like reading a novel and writing an essay that backs up your interpretation with details from the book. Or reading a variety of articles and conducting interviews for a social studies class and writing a paper citing evidence from those sources to back up an argument.

In the standards, the idea of writing based on evidence in text goes hand in hand with a shift in the kinds of things students read. They're in for much more informational text. This combination has alarmed many educators, who fear a major downgrade of literary reading and of writing stories, poetry, plays, and personal narrative.

The Atlantic waded into this territory recently with a interesting and in-depth look at struggling New Dorp High School in New York City, which used an intensive focus on writing to turn itself around. The magazine has now followed up by soliciting the thoughts of a range of people in the field, asking them why students can't write, and what kinds of writing they should be doing. The responses are collected here, and will be accumulating through the middle of this month.

As schools put the common core into practice, they will no doubt find themselves in the middle of this debate.

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