GWEN Faulkner's fourth-grade classroom at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School here is not the American norm.
Busy children are writing and illustrating stories about trips to the National Zoo and the Baltimore Aquarium. Unlike most fourth-grade classes, Ms. Faulkner's class spends most of the day working on their writing, even when learning social studies or science.
But Secretary of Education Richard Riley chose Tubman Elementary to announce on Tuesday the results of the "1992 Writing Report Card," which says that although American students can write, they cannot write well.
The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which sets policy for the Report Card and is associated with the US Department of Education, says writing has improved since their last study in 1988, but not by much. The board is issuing a trend report based on research since testing started in 1969.
Writing skills have not improved because children do not spend enough time on writing in school - often less than two hours a week, the study shows, which is still almost an hour more than the level in 1988. Meanwhile, 87 percent of eighth-graders are spending more than two hours a day watching television.
According to the report, 12th-graders in the lowest-ranking schools studied have worse writing skills than eighth-graders in the top-ranking schools. …