THE BASIC LITERACY SKILLS OF HIGH SCHOOL students have been lamented in a plethora of education reports in recent times. One of them, an Achieve report in 2005, found that only 32 percent of students who graduate high school in four years have mastered basic literacy skills such as reading and writing. Employers bemoan the literacy skills of their workers, too. In a 2005 survey, the National Associational of Manufacturers found that 36 percent of manufacturers had workers with "insufficient reading, writing and communication skills."
Why Good Writing is Necessary
Good writing [and reading] skills support educational and occupational success. Whether career and technical education (CTE) students plan to enter the workforce after high school or go on to college, you can bet they'll be doing some writing. At the very least they'll be writing job applications and sending out electronic communications during the course of their daily lives. Students who go on to any kind of postsecondary education will be required to write even more as they prepare term papers and essays, take tests, participate in projects, and communicate with their contemporaries and instructors. In addition, today's technology-infused society requires some writing skills in ways ranging from the preparation of PowerPoint presentations to the creation of Web pages and blogs. So how can students in the CTE classroom improve their writing skills?
How CTE Teachers Can Help
Teachers can be integral in helping students hone these skills. But they won't be able to do that if their own writing skills aren't up to par. Participation in a federally funded initiative now under way, the National Writing Project (NWP), could give teachers the boost they need to improve their writing skills. Through its professional development model, NWP "builds the leadership, programs and research needed for teachers to help their students become successful writers and learners." There are more than 200 NWP sites around the country working with teachers to help them become better writers through programming such as in-service and summer institutes where participants learn from more experienced teachers who demonstrate their most effective practices. NWP also has a number of projects under way, including the New Teacher Initiative to help support new teachers in urban schools, and the NWP Technology Initiative which provides opportunities for writing project sites to develop programs promoting the integration of technology into learning.
Other Helpful Resources
There are also countless books, programs, workshops and other resources unaffiliated with NWP that teachers and students can use to help them become better writers. Why Johnny Can't Write: How to Improve Writing Skills by Myra J. Linden and Arthur Whimbey got a favorable review by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). An NASSP bulletin noted that the publication "treats, at an appropriate level of detail, the issues surrounding the teaching of writing. It presents all positions respectfully, without acrimony or the attribution of bad motives that mar some educational debates." This book, which includes sample exercises that are quite engaging, can be used by CTE instructors to improve their own writing skills, and consequently those of their students.
Although CTE teachers aren't writing instructors, there are many ways they can help their students improve their writing skills without intruding on the instruction of the CTE content. For instance, students can be asked to write reports that can both test their knowledge of the CTE content being taught, and give them opportunities to strengthen their writing abilities. …