Linda Adler-Kassner, the director of the UCSB Writing Program and former president of the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), took a trip to the White House on Friday, October 7, to meet with officials from the Department of Education and discuss improvements that can be made in the teaching of writing skills throughout the public school system. The goal of the CWPA is to improve the quality and breadth of writing in college-level writing programs.. Adler-Kassner credits the strength of UCSB’s writing program as one of the reasons she was invited to attend. “We have this great writing program that reflects a lot of the best practices in the field,” she said, “so it was a pleasure to get to share that.”
Calling the visit a “terrific opportunity,” Adler-Kassner was excited to share the CWPA’s “Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing,” which attempts to improve the writing standards that kids will need to be successful writers at a college level and for careers involving different types of writing. Currently, 43 states in the country have adopted the Common Core State Standards, which outline what kids are expected to be learning from kindergarten through high school. “Those of us who teach college writing think that [the Common Core State Standards] need to be deepened and broadened in order to really prepare students for college-level writing courses,” she said.
One of the most important issues facing writing instruction today is the “increasingly narrow experience that students have coming into college-level writing classes,” Adler-Kassner explained. “We know from years and years of research and experience that writing is different in different places. Good writers know how to assess the expectations of writing in different places and how to be flexible. Students are coming to college with these really narrow experiences and without an awareness that this flexibility is really important. We have to think about how to help students develop the kind of flexibility.”
The Obama Administration has made some progress in improving writing standards in K-12 schools, said Adler-Kassner, explaining that the administration “has worked to promote the Common Core State Standards in some way because states had to adopt the standards to apply for Race to the Top funding.” She continued, “Now, the Common Core State Standards say that students have to become very proficient in two kinds of writing: informational writing and argumentative writing with a little bit of descriptive writing. It’s great that they include writing. That is wonderful because a lot of states are dealing with the unintended mandates that accompanied No Child Left Behind that were really resulting in very little writing because writing is expensive to assess.”
For more info on the UCSB Writing Program, go here.