The good news is that students are writing more these days. The bad news is the kind of writing they are doing is less than stellar. Instant messages via the Internet have now replaced the folded note passed secretly around classrooms. But these short, quick messages dashed off via cyberspace may not be helping students writing skills at all, some educators fear.
Students are learning to get their thoughts across quickly via computer writing but teachers say some abbreviated terminology, like "b4" for before and "b/c" for because, is showing up in classroom essays.
Fewer than one in three of the nation's fourth, eighth and 12th graders are proficient in writing, according to a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report. That means most students weren't able to compose organized, coherent prose in clear language with correct spelling and grammar. The July report found that 97 percent of all elementary students spend less than three hours a week on writing.
"Some of the problem may be what is going on with the Internet. A lot of kids write these short kind of notes to get thoughts across, but to be able to organize and be coherent, that is where they fall down," says Marilyn Whirry, a former California 12th-grade English teacher and 2000 National Teacher of the Year.
Still, say others, at least the Internet gets students writing. There are other reasons students are not reaching proficiency levels. Often, writing is nudged out of the curriculum because educators must spend more class time on math or reading skills. …