This paper critically examines the state of writing instruction over the past two decades. Despite the National Commission on Writing’s urgent call in 2003 for a “writing revolution,” evidence from the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates insufficient progress in students’ writing proficiency. Findings suggest persistent achievement gaps across student groups based on income, school location, ethnicity, and digital access. The paper argues that the revolution fell short not due to a lack of knowledge of effective writing instruction, but rather, because of the continued lower prioritization of writing compared to reading, mathematics, and science in educational policy and practice. Despite this, the paper posits optimism for future improvements in writing instruction, emphasizing the joining together of rigorous studies that define successful instructional approaches with educational technologies that use generative artificial intelligence to partner with the teacher to improve writing instruction and also lessen writing instructional demands on teachers’ time.
Just over two decades ago, following a review of writing assessment and writing instruction, the National Commission on Writing described writing instruction as the “neglected R” (of Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic), arguing that we needed no less than a “writing revolution” to set things right (MaGrath, et al., 2003). To achieve the sweeping changes necessary, the Commission urged virtually every stakeholder to join the revolution, including national and local policymakers, national, state, and local education agencies engaged in development and oversight of teacher preparation and professional development, curriculum frameworks, and educational assessment; in-service teachers and school administrators responsible for implementing new practices, and private sector leaders engaged in developing emerging technologies that could support improved teaching and assessment.
Despite the expressed urgency and the specificity within their recommendations, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—the nation’s “Report Card”--indicate that we have not heeded that call. The most recent NAEP Writing assessments (2012, 2017) measured students’ ability to write to persuade, explain, or convey a personal experience, using laptops and word processing software. Results were disappointing, at best, indicating that most students performed at a basic level, demonstrating only “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at the grade level” (National Center for Education Statistics (2012, p. 7). Moreover, certain groups of students continue to fair worse than others, with findings documenting persistent and consequential achievement differences among students by family income (students from higher income families score higher than students from low-income families); school location (students in suburban schools perform better than students in urban or rural schools); and student ethnicity (Asian and White students outperform Hispanic and Black students). Results also indicated that access to and experiences with digital devices and word processing software contributed to performance gaps, with students who had greater access to digital devices and software performing better than those with less access. Moreover, digital access differed by both family demographics and school demographics, with students in suburban schools substantially more likely than their peers in urban and rural schools to have opportunities to gather information and write on digital devices.
So, what happened? It’s not that we don’t know how to improve writing instruction and learning. On the contrary, both at the time of the Commission’s report and in the intervening years, we have had access to an ample body of rigorous and trustworthy studies that define successful approaches to writing instruction and development. Instead, the “revolution” seems to have failed because policymakers, educators, and technology entrepreneurs alike neglected to give writing the same importance they give to other curricular areas, such as reading and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) –each an area that is widely recognized as a critically important ability for “career-readiness.” As a result, these areas are likely to be prioritized and incentivized, and more likely a target of supplemental funding from federal and local educational agencies to support teaching resources, assessment, and professional development. Perhaps because of the particular focus, they also are typically allocated more classroom instructional time. Fewer instructional minutes result in less time to teach and less time to practice writing–all of this together conspires against any real chance of achieving meaningful growth.
In short, despite solid evidence that “nearly 70 percent of salaried employees have at least some responsibility for writing” (Graham, et al., 2012, p. 6), as a nation, we seem to have failed to convince ourselves that writing carries the same weight and importance as other areas of the curriculum. A Forbes Business Council Post (2021) provides an especially apt description of the multitude of ways writing influences career opportunities:
As a leader, you can gain effective insight into your employees’ and applicants’ thinking skills by evaluating their writing. Precise word choices and well-structured sentences, for example, can help indicate clarity of thought. Similarly, a logical, easy-to-follow narrative flow could suggest an organized mind capable of critical analysis, including self-analysis. More generally, writing can provide a window into a person’s characteristic approach to tasks. Are they hasty or careful? Are they thorough or superficial? Are they attentive to how their work is received by others? Good writing requires reflection and openness to revision. It seeks to serve the audience, as the writer’s hard work makes the reader’s job easier. From my perspective, such writing means their communication with others on their team and outside stakeholders is likely to add significant value to an organization. (Post, May 3, 2021)
So, what now? We clearly need to sound the sirens again, and somehow, harness the knowledge and resources we have to improve the teaching of writing. Yet, why might this time be different from the past? I believe that, a couple of decades later, we may have increased both the skill and the will to make the necessary changes. Here’s why. First, the evidence about effective instruction of writing has continued to build, providing even greater clarity about how to frame effective instruction, potentially improving the skillfulness of teaching. Second, the rapid growth of generative artificial intelligence makes it possible to leverage educational technologies to implement some important teaching actions. By using “smart” technology to assume responsibility for some teaching actions, we can provide teachers more instructional time to enact the teaching practices that only an informed, close-to-the-action, teacher can do. Finally, awareness of the critical importance of writing out of school–in employment settings as well as in daily life with the ever-growing importance of social media–has also continued to build, and this development may strengthen the will among all stakeholders to increase educational funding and resources to improve and extend students’ opportunities to become engaged and inspired writers.
To move us forward, let’s begin by first reviewing what we know about skillful writing instruction.
What Do We Know About Effective Writing Instruction?
Studies investigating effective teaching of writing are numerous. For the purposes of this paper, I’ve drawn primarily on a meta-analysis of 88 studies utilizing single-subject design which allowed researchers to calculate “true” effects of various interventions and instructional practices with a high degree of trustworthiness (Rogers & Graham, 2008). In addition, I’ve included findings from a few other studies that addressed specific populations or specific writing practices. I’ve used these principles to derive a few general principles to guide writing instruction.
Develop students’ knowledge and use of all parts of the writing process.
Studies have firmly established that good writing develops not “on demand,” during a single writing period, but rather, as a process that includes time to plan, draft, revise, and edit. Further, these process parts are not linear—that is, they are not enacted in a fixed sequential or chronological order. Rather, they occur recursively, as writers move back and forth in the parts to compose a piece that achieves their writing purposes. Studies indicate that when teachers explicitly develop awareness of writing as a recursive process, and demonstrate and guide students to fully engage in the process, students’ writing improves (e.g., Rogers & Graham, 2008).
Develop students’ awareness of text structure and its importance in planning and composing “considerate” text.
Many studies have focused on understanding the ways texts are organized, and in particular, the higher-level text structures that characterize the ways writers organize and share their ideas. Findings provide conclusive evidence for a few common text structures for both narrative and expository texts (e.g., Meyer, 1975). For narrative text, there is one, largely universal, text structure: a setting, characters, problem or goal, attempts to solve the problem or achieve the goal, resolution, and consequence.
For expository or informational texts, there is general agreement on five common text structures. These include description, problem/solution, comparison/contrast, sequence or chronological order, and cause/effect. When text organization complies with one of these structures, it is generally found to be more easily comprehended by readers. (See Williams, 2018, for an apt summary of text structure research.)
On the heels of this evidence, researchers have examined the effects of developing text structure awareness on students’ reading and writing. In general, intervention studies confirm that building awareness of text structure improves both reading and writing across wide-ranging groups of students, including elementary, middle, and secondary students, students with special learning needs, and students acquiring English as an additional language (e.g., Armbruster, Anderson, & Ostertag, 1989; Cotterall & Cohen, 2003; Graham, Harris, & Mason, 2004; Strong, 2020). Moreover, studies indicate that graphic organizers are an especially useful tool as they provide a visual representation of the relationships between and among the ideas in text; they guide readers to focus on and recall important ideas in text; and they help writers to plan and organize the important ideas they wish to share (e.g., Englert, C. S., Raphael, T. E., Anderson, L. M., & Stevens, D. D, 1991; Graham, Harris, & Mason, 2004).
Build students’ awareness of and attention to varied writing purposes and different writing audiences.
Central to this instructional principle is evidence that awareness of writing purpose and target audience affects the ways writers organize and “voice” their ideas (Rogers & Graham, 2008).
For example, writing purpose (e.g., to inform or explain, to persuade, to share an experience, to entertain, to self-reflect) is likely to influence the organization of ideas. Writers who wish to persuade or share an opinion may choose to organize their ideas using cause/effect or problem/solution text structures. Writers who wish to share an experience may choose simple description or chronology as a text structure. Writers who intend to tell a story will use a story structure as an overarching organizational frame.
Awareness of audience is also likely to influence writing decisions, as writers may choose to vary their “voice” or language style based on their target audience, perhaps using more informal and colloquial language when writing for peers and more formal language when writing for authority figures or the general public. To vary voice, writers may make choices that affect the “tone” of their pieces, such as the use of different sentence structures (simple or complex); word choices (familiar, high-frequency vs. rare or sophisticated), or punctuation (an exclamation or question mark vs. a period).
Develop strategies and routines for gathering rich knowledge related to writing topics.
Composing engaging and interesting texts requires knowledge of text genres (e.g., fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy, myth, poetry) and their rhetorical structures (i.e., narrative, expository), and also knowledge of the focal topic. When teachers identify and share mentor texts representative of particular text genres and text structures, they help their students develop an understanding of the range of ways they can organize their writing. Similarly, when teachers guide students to develop sources and strategies for developing background knowledge about a particular topic, they help them to gather information to engage and inform their readers (e.g., Graham, 2019).
Create writing contexts that are agentive and collaborative.
Like learning in general, writing is nurtured and improved in a context in which teachers engage students in collaborative activities that allow student input and agency related to topic choice, giving and receiving affirming and facilitative feedback, and sharing their work through various forms of publication (Rogers & Graham, 2008). Agentive contexts provide students choices in varied ways, including topics to write about, audiences to target, and forms of publication (e.g., essay, zine, blog, podcast, poster). Collaborative contexts build on the evidence that learning is grounded in social interactions (Vygotsky, 1978) that provide ample and varied opportunities for students to collaborate with both peers and teachers as they plan, draft, revise, and share their work.
Situate instruction in grammar and usage within the context of students’ own writing.
Accurate grammar and usage (e.g., sentence construction, spelling, punctuation, capitalization) are important elements of good writing, and studies indicate that these writing conventions must be included as part of an effective approach to teaching writing. But when and how we teach these basic skills matters. Studies related to instruction of grammar and usage indicate that the most favorable outcomes are found when instruction in these writing elements occurs as part of students’ revising and editing of their own writing as opposed to instruction and practice on worksheets or activities disconnected from students’ own writing. Writing programs that help teachers and students to consider these writing elements during revision and editing are most likely to support improved writing outcomes (Graham et al., 2012).
Provide facilitative feedback throughout the writing process.
Good writing emerges from a process in which writers receive productive and individualized feedback throughout the writing process. Facilitative feedback is intended to accomplish two purposes: first, to “audit” or evaluate students’ performance. This is the function most of us are most familiar with–essentially a grading or rating function. The second purpose is to inform or teach (Wiggins, 1998) by noticing specifically what a student does and naming a strategy or practice that writers can use to improve their writing. Exercising this type of feedback is analogous to the actions of a good coach–someone who tells you what you are doing well so that you can keep doing it; and someone who tells you what you are NOT doing so that you can add it to your repertoire of skills or strategies. Moreover, feedback of this type helps students develop and embrace a growth mindset as they come to see that learning ability is flexible and dynamic, and responsive to their own decision-making and strategic actions, and not a static, innate characteristic.
Provide substantial classroom time for writing instruction and for students to write.
Taken together, enacting the previously described writing principles requires considerable classroom time—teaching writing well is not something that can be accomplished in brief bits of time. Recommendations put forth by an expert panel (Graham et al., 2018) specified a minimum of one hour a day, beginning in first grade, to include 30 minutes of instruction in a variety of writing skills and strategies and 30 minutes of time to practice writing. It’s important to note, however, that this time allocation relates only to time in the classroom. Most teachers report that complying with the principle for providing feedback requires substantial teacher time outside of school, reading and commenting on students’ work.
How Might New Technologies Help Us Act on What We Know?
Knowledge of the fundamental elements of writing instruction has been around for decades. Within teacher education programs and on-going professional development, tens of thousands of teachers have been introduced to sound teaching practices. But even sound knowledge of teaching methods acquired in teacher education and professional development programs is initially fragile, as it takes time and practice to convert “new knowledge” to deep and stable knowledge (Perkins, 1993). Fragile knowledge is less likely to be actively used, and, in turn, is likely to be forgotten or ignored in the face of the multiple, competing demands that characterize most schools and classrooms. Writing knowledge may be especially vulnerable to being displaced, as teachers report that despite knowledge of what they should do to develop engaged and inspired writers, 82% reported that they do not have enough time in the school day to actually do it. As noted previously, high-quality writing instruction not only demands substantial classroom time; unlike other subject areas, great writing instruction also places substantial demands on teachers’ time outside of the classroom, as they read and respond to students’ writing drafts and final submissions.
Confronted with challenges of teaching writing, many teachers and administrators anticipated that the arrival of 1:1 devices (e.g., laptop, iPad, Chromebook) in classrooms would improve writing instruction and achievement. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Beyond the fact that access to technology has been widely inequitable (e.g., NAEP, 2012, 2017), even with access, such devices don’t introduce or guide students in the use of new strategies or practices. Rather, they simply provide another medium for students to practice what they already know how to do. As a result, although these devices might be helpful tools for students who already know how to write, they offer little value to those who require instruction to acquire new writing strategies or practices.
But what about the software that such devices can offer? Don’t those products provide instructional assistance? In fact, despite technological advances in many areas, when compared with their focus in other curricular areas, up until now, software developers in the EdTech space have devoted relatively little time to developing products that are likely to improve writing and its instruction. Rather, they have placed their attention elsewhere. For example, in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), entrepreneurs have readily accepted and promoted the idea that rigorous instruction in STEM is fundamental to students’ lifelong learning opportunities, as in this example:
Educating students in STEM subjects…prepares students for life, regardless of the profession they choose to follow. [STEM] subjects teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.” (Deangelis, 2014).
Entrepreneurial advocacy such as this matters, as it incentivizes product engineering and development, making more and better resources and experiences available to teachers and students. Notwithstanding evidence that writing is the primary way that students can demonstrate their understanding in all disciplines, in the EdTech space, STEM continues to dominate, and one can find no similar assertion about or acknowledgement of the importance of writing over one’s lifetime. As a result, little attention has been given to developing technologies that reflect the full range of evidence-based writing instruction. Instead, until now, led by companies such as Grammarly, Google (Docs, Slides), and Microsoft (Word, PowerPoint), writing technology has focused almost exclusively on spelling and grammar, with no or little attention to supporting a writer’s conception and organization of ideas, as recommended in the body of research related to effective instruction of writing.
That’s about to change. The advent of generative artificial technologies (AI) has the potential to substantively change the ways writing is taught by supporting the design of program features that can assume some of the most time-consuming teaching actions required to teach and guide good writing. These include formulating interesting, relevant, and accessible writing prompts, providing research-based frames or structures to guide students’ planning and composing, and providing early, individualized, feedback on students’ drafts. That is, as students’ collaborate with an AI-driven “buddy” to complete these early writing tasks, teachers will be able to spend their precious classroom minutes providing strategic small-group and individualized instruction targeted to the specific needs of their students.
How Can Generative Artificial Intelligence Help (Rather than Hurt) Students’ Writing Development?
The rather sudden arrival and universal availability of generative artificial intelligence has sent shockwaves through both primary and secondary education. Will we even need to teach students to write? Or will students (and everyone else) simply rely on AI for writing in all aspects of their lives? Although none of us can predict the future, what we know right now about the writing process and about AI suggests that it is unlikely to erase the need for the type of writing instruction that leads to thoughtful composition of argument and explanation. That’s partially because, as noted previously, quality writing rarely occurs in isolation. Instead, it emerges from a social process that involves knowledge of writing, experience in the world, and, importantly, collaboration--a recursive process with a thoughtful “other” that often prompts reflection, rethinking, and revision, bringing a piece to its final iteration. In keeping with this understanding, Gero (Wired, December 2, 2022) argued that AI is unlikely to write for us, but rather, might best be viewed as a tool to write with us. She described it as having the potential to serve as a “drafting buddy…offering a plot point here, a stunning sentence there, an editorial comment that pushes a writer a little further…But when a computer ends up changing what the writer set out to achieve, writers may start to wonder whether their vision is getting muddied by an entity that lacks any experience in the real world.”
If this conceptualization is correct, then our best pathway may be not to try to keep ourselves and our students away from AI, but instead, to consider the ways we can use AI to lighten the demands on teachers’ time required to teach writing effectively—to give back time that they currently expend on tasks that can be handled by AI.
In fact, that is starting to happen. New EdTech companies, such as Pressto, have started to leverage technology to advance technological support for writing instruction beyond grammar, spelling, and word processing. In their best iteration, these new technologies can enable a digital product to take on the role of a knowledgeable teaching assistant. Importantly, like any good teaching assistant, the purpose of the technological support is not to replace the teacher, but rather, to draw on technologies that can effectively guide students to use fundamental writing practices, freeing teachers to spend their time on aspects of writing instruction that require greater depth and knowledge of an individual’s needs. In short, using new technologies as a resource, teachers will be able to allocate the time necessary to position writing as a core subject that will empower students for 21st century demands.
How Does Pressto Help Teachers Teach Great Writing?
In the section that follows, I review the ways that Pressto helps teachers implement known best practices in writing instruction by applying effective writing routines and technology, including AI, to support instruction and optimize the ways teachers use classroom time to teach writing.
A. Provide high-quality writing prompts. Research in motivation for and engagement in learning documents the importance of curriculum that is cognitively challenging, relevant, and accessible (Guthrie & Humerick, 2004). In the context of writing, creating cognitive challenge, relevance, and accessibility begins with the writing prompt teachers provide to students. Is the writing topic cognitive challenging–does it cause students to think about the concept idea in new and thoughtful ways, by either gathering new knowledge or thoughtful explaining or rethinking their understanding of existing knowledge? Is the writing topic relevant–that is, does it connect in an important and meaningful way to students’ lives in and out of school? Are both the topic and the related writing task accessible—that is, is it likely that every student has the ability and related knowledge or experiences to draw on when responding to the prompt? And, is it likely that every student has acquired writing strategies necessary to craft a a thoughtful response? This initial step in the writing process—providing students with prompts that are cognitively challenging, relevant, and accessible—can be an especially time-consuming task for teachers. With the integration of an AI Assistant, Pressto can save teachers time, as they are able to specify writing purpose, topic, and grade level in asking for prompt generation and receive multiple ideas in just a few seconds. Moreover, this feature has the potential to help teachers differentiate instruction by using AI to generate prompts with more or less structure to meet the range of writing needs among the students in their classrooms. Pressto was the first company to integrate AI assisted writing prompts into a K-12 education focused product in February 2023 with the Assignment Assistant feature.
B. Guide teachers to embed writing across the curriculum. Writing experts recommend a minimum of 60 minutes of daily writing instruction and practice—a time requirement that is difficult for teachers to enact unless they join writing instruction with the teaching of content area subjects (e.g., science, social studies, history). Guiding teachers toward this practice is important not only to optimize time for writing; but also because studies consistently find that when students write in response to reading or learning in content areas, they deepen their understanding of content and increase the likelihood that they will retain the information over longer periods of time. Writing across the curriculum links back to AI and prompt generation, as one important way to integrate disciplinary learning with writing is to provide prompts that are deliberately written to cohere with topics of study across the curriculum.
C. Improve students’ writing planning and organization by introducing common text structures and writing plans that align with them. Good writing is characterized by thoughtful and purposeful organization of ideas that largely conforms to a largely universal narrative text structure and a few common informational text structures. Pressto introduces students to these common text structures by introducing writing plans and graphic organizers that align with them. After students select a writing plan, their page is populated with a collection of Writing Blocks™ that align with the plan. They compose their ideas within the appropriate Writing Block™. They also have the option to download a graphic organizer that matches their writing plan to record and organize their ideas.
D. Help teachers develop “real-time” routines for facilitative writing feedback. Responding to students’ writing is one of the most important factors in helping students grow into excellent writers, but unfortunately, it is also one of the most time-consuming tasks teachers confront. In typical elementary, middle, and secondary schools, classrooms comprise 20-25 students. Reading and commenting on each student’s work even once a week requires an enormous amount of teacher time; and often such feedback occurs only on students’ final writing pieces, rather than during the processes of planning, drafting, and revising. This means that facilitative comments often go unheeded, as students move on to the next piece without taking time to revise or edit the current one. Pressto will soon release AI Assisted Teacher Feedback, which will comprise a collection of feedback comments from which teachers can select for each student.
E. Help teachers provide individualized feedback throughout the writing process. Online writing programs, including Pressto, are exploring the use of AI to provide automated feedback to students as they write. Pressto’s Writing Buddy™ provides hints for students, providing suggestions based on writing strategies and keeping students on track as they await a teacher’s individual attention. Writing Buddy™ considers the details of the teacher’s assignment and what the student has written thus far, along with the purpose of the specific Writing Block™. It “reads” students’ writing, noticing what students have composed (or not), and providing specific, targeted, strategic advice and encouragement to move students along. By relieving teachers of the need to provide feedback on students’ early planning and drafts, Pressto frees teachers to spend valuable classroom minutes to introduce or review specific writing strategies and practices to individuals or small groups of students.
F. Use automation to give teachers the time they need to effectively monitor and respond to students’ writing progress prior to submission. An especially notable feature of Pressto is the way it leverages technology to allow teachers to see students’ progress on each assignment, even before a first draft has been submitted. Using Real-time View , teachers will be able to see and review the sections or Writing Blocks™ each student has started or completed, and this will allow them to step in during the writing process, working with individuals or small groups with similar needs, to guide or prompt the use of known writing strategies or teach them new ones as needed. By doing so, they will be able to help students stay on track (or, at times, get them back on track), so that they can advance toward successful completion of the writing assignment. With this technology feature, teachers will be able to situate their instructional help at the precise time that students are most likely to apply it and benefit from it.
Pressto Acts On the Evidence
Pressto is an educational writing environment with strategic instructional support and real-time feedback for students. Pressto works for writing assignments across subjects and interests to create authentic writing experiences.
Learn about what Pressto does...
Pressto Does Writing Prompts
Teaching Practice or Instructional Strategy
Provide writing prompts that are relevant, cognitively challenging, and accessible.
What Research Says
Tasks that are relevant to students’ lives in and out of school, cognitively challenging, and accessible—that is, aligned with their abilities and their background experiences, correlate with increased motivation and engagement in learning. (Guthrie & Humenick, 2004)
What Pressto Does
Pressto has built an AI-powered Writing Prompt Assistant to help teachers create writing prompts that are relevant, cognitively challenging and accessible.
Accessible means that every student can expected to have both the ability and the background experiences to respond productively. So, in this example, we can expect that in every family, there is some sort of tradition. Some may be more or less elaborate, more or less joyful, etc., but there will be something for each student to write about. Compare that to a prompt that says: Describe the way you felt the first time you rode a bicycle. (some students might never have a bike!) Or, tell about your family vacation (some students don’t get togo on vacation.)
Prompts can be relevant but not accessible…e.g., tell about an animal whose habitat is threatened by humans. This is important and relevant, but if the teacher doesn’t build in background experiences through reading, video, podcast, etc., it’s not accessible to students who don’t already know about it.
In a nutshell:
Challenging—stretches students’ intellects
Relevant – is meaningful both in and out of school
Accessible – students have background experiences/knowledge and writing abilities that will allow them to respond productively
Pressto Does Writing Blocks
Teaching Practice or Instructional Strategy
Develop students’ knowledge of text structure and use graphic organizers to guide planning and composing.
What Research Says
Awareness of common text structures improves both reading and writing across wide-ranging groups of students, including elementary, middle, and secondary students, students with special learning needs, and students acquiring English as an additional language.Graphic organizers are an especially useful planning tool as they provide a visual representation of the relationships between and among the ideas in text; they guide readers to focus on and recall important ideas in text; and they help writers to plan and organize the important ideas they wish to share.
What Pressto Does
Each Pressto assignment includes a built-in writing plan to help students plan and organize their ideas.
Pressto Does Real-time Feedback
Teaching Practice or Instructional Strategy
Provide “real time” feedback that affirms and facilitates learning
What Research Says
Good writing emerges from a process in which writers receive facilitative feedback throughout the writing process. Facilitative feedback should accomplish two purposes: “audit” or evaluate students’ performance; and, inform or teach strategies that will help them improve their writing (Wiggins, 1998).
What Pressto Does
Pressto’s Writing Buddy™ gives students personalized and relevant feedback on fundamental writing elements as they write. It’s not just a grammar or spell checker. It notices the content within particular WritingBlocks™ (e.g., introduction, conclusion) and either affirms or suggests a strategy to revise and strengthen writing.
At the outset, I explained that a decades-old call to draw educational stakeholders together to substantially change the ways we teach writing has gone unmet, and, in turn, the goal of improving all students’ opportunities to learn is unrealized, as writing scores among elementary, middle, and secondary school students have remained stagnant. One explanation for the lack of action and resulting stagnant achievement gains is that writing instruction gets lost in a sea of other school priorities—in particular, the ongoing demand for higher achievement in reading and STEM. These higher visibility subject areas not only deplete schools’ financial resources. They also diminish the amount of instructional time teachers are able to allocate to high-quality writing instruction. Although there is no magic wand that one can waive to create a world in which writing is perceived as equally important to these higher-profile curriculum areas, there are very real and productive solutions well within our reach. These require us to urgently and consistently enact what we know about evidence-based writing instruction, create more time for writing by integrating writing instruction with other content areas (including Reading and STEM), and more effectively leverage rapidly improving educational technologies, including generative artificial intelligence, to provide teachers more time to teach and to increase students’ opportunities to learn. If we join these sources of knowledge and resources together now, we will be able to immediately optimize teaching time in ways that demonstrably increase students’ learning opportunities. We mustn’t wait–students in today’s classrooms need to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.
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