Unveiling the Nation's Report Card: Can American Students Write Well?

The National Assessment of Education Progress evaluated 8th and 12th graders on their writing skills.

In the 2011 Nation's Report Card, students were evaluated on their writing skills. (Photo: Roy Mehta)
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

Three-fourths of the 8th and 12th graders in America are not proficient in writing.

These troubling numbers were reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Only three percent of students evaluated performed at the advanced level, while 48 percent of 8th graders and 52 percent of 12th graders performed at the basic level.

Female students, Asian students, and students living in the suburbs performed highest. Both public and private school students were surveyed.

The recent evaluations were done differently than in past years. Instead of using a pencil and paper, the 24,100 8th graders and 28,100 12th graders surveyed typed their responses on laptops. The new testing method according to the NAEP, "recognizes the significant role that computers play in the writing process, as well as the prevalence of computer technology in the lives of students and the increasing role of computers in learning activities."

More: Read a Book: 10 Telling Photos of Literacy Around the World

Students were tested on how well they could persuade, explain, and convey an experience.

David P. Driscoll, chairman of the NAEP says:

Writing is fundamental to effective communication, especially in an era in which email and other word-processed documents are the norm rather than the exception. Our nation’s students need to write clearly, logically, and accurately. We need to focus on supporting students beyond Basic levels so that they have a solid grasp of effective writing skills.

Beverly Chin, an English professor at the University of Montana told Education Week in a statement that "these findings support the importance of integrating computers into writing instruction. When teachers encourage students to use word-processing features on a regular basis, students learn how computers can facilitate their writing processes and improve their final product.”

Chin also raised concerns over the limited access low-income students have to technology.  She explained that “students who are skilled in using technology tools in writing will be more successful in school, the workplace, and society.”

You can help low-income students in Indiana learn to write and communicate with advanced technology through DonorsChoose—the online charity that connects you with classrooms in need.

This teacher, Ms. Macy, is hoping to give her students who came to the U.S. as refugees with a Samsung tablet. She writes on her DonorsChoose page that she would like to "bridge her students' language gap and develop their English skills." Here's how you can help:

Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com

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