Decades of research from the University of Chicago¹ confirms that writing five or more times per month across subjects helps students become college- and career-ready. When students write, they hone the literacy skills vital to 21st-century success² – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
Additionally, an independent, controlled study showed that when students use writing platforms like ThinkCERCA to fidelity – alongside instructional best practices – they can gain two years of academic growth in one year³.
A successful writing initiative empowers students to think critically and express their points of view effectively. Such an initiative can go far beyond impacting student achievement, though. A cross-curricular argumentative writing program can also improve the Instructional Core, by affecting all aspects of the core simultaneously:
In consideration of these factors, this guide will provide an overview of how administrators can successfully roll out a writing initiative that amplifies every aspect of the Instructional Core, particularly with improving teacher knowledge and skill as it relates to writing instruction.
For students to achieve the academic growth demonstrated in successful writing initiatives, they need to write across subjects. Not all teachers, however, receive explicit training in writing during their preparation as teachers. Even fewer teachers receive training in how to teach writing. As an administrator, it’s essential to provide all teachers with the high-level training to guide students through the writing process. After all, there isn’t a state or country today that doesn’t assess writing in a high-stakes test, and the skills students gain from writing are essential for success in the Information Age.
Help teachers feel comfortable with the practice.
Help teachers feel comfortable with technology.
Coach teachers on providing feedback on writing.
Guide teachers through leading a structured class discussion.
Provide embedded professional development.
Students need access to a coherent, standards-aligned, and appropriately challenging curriculum that guides them through developing knowledge and skills along a continuum.
It’s the administrator’s job to ensure access to that high-quality content. Doing the right things is Step 1. Doing those things right is Step 2.
The research behind the Instructional Core posits that changing the content is one of just a few ways to improve student learning across a school. In the context of a writing initiative, this means that students should engage with real-world texts that help them work through a relevant, debatable question.
Educators can tell the difference between a passive class going through the drills and an active class in which students bring a new dimension to discussion. It all depends on the role a student plays in the learning process. When students are engaged in their learning, they can realize the power of their own ideas and those ideas spark courageous thinking among peers. This ignites the kinds of classroom experiences that mirror 21st-century workplaces and important civic discussions.
When instruction is effective, content is rigorous, and students play an active role in their learning, the pieces of a writing initiative can fall into place. The only thing left to do, as an administrator, is get the ball rolling.
¹Allensworth, Elaine, Macarena Correa, and Steve Ponisciak. From High School to the Future: ACT Preparation--Too Much, Too Late. Why ACT Scores Are Low in Chicago and What It Means for Schools. Consortium on Chicago School Research. 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, 2008.
²Polder, Michael, Vincenzo Spiezia, and Giorgio Presidente. "ICTs and Jobs: Complements or Substitutes?" June 2016. http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=DSTI/ICCP/IIS(2016)1/FINAL&docLanguage=En.
³"Finding What Works: Results from the LEAP Innovations Pilot Network." 2016. https://www.leapinnovations.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/PN_C1_Research_Brief_FINAL_red.pdf.
⁴City, Elizabeth A., Richard F. Elmore, Sarah E. Fiarman, and Lee Teitel. Instructional rounds in education: A network approach to improving teaching and learning. Harvard Education Press. 8 Story Street First Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, 2009.
⁵Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. Guided instruction: How to develop confident and successful learners. ASCD, 2010.