Can They Write Or Not?

“I am happy to report, paraphrasing Mark Twain, that the death of writing has been greatly exaggerated,” said Amanda P. Avallone, an eighth-grade English teacher who is a vice chairwoman of the board that oversees the federal testing program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card.

Still, some experts questioned whether the test, which asks students to write brief essays in a short time, gave an accurate measurement of their writing ability.

The results were released at a news conference Thursday at the Library of Congress in Washington.

James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, drew laughs when he expressed concern about what he called “the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought, the sentence,” because young Americans are doing most of their writing in disjointed prose composed in Internet chat rooms or in cellphone text messages.

“The sentence is the biggest casualty,” Mr. Billington said. “To what extent is students’ writing getting clearer? Is that still being taught?”

Ms. Avallone sought to allay his concerns.

“I know that the sentence has not been put to rest as a unit of communication,” she said.

From In Test, Few Students Are Proficient Writers – New York Times

You can see a sample 8th grade test question here .

Read the whole report, “The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2007,” here.

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