No can rite The high

No can rite
The high school term paper — 10 to 15 pages with bibliography — is out of style, even for college- bound students, says the Los Angeles Times. Teachers say they’re busy teaching students to write five-paragraph essays required to pass tests. Or they have too many students to read long papers. (Class sizes have fallen steadily over the last 20 years, so I doubt that’s a new issue.) Some say students will plagiarize papers from the Internet, so why bother? (Go here for a long-time English teacher’s guidelines on how to ensure students research and write their own papers.) Finally, teachers say “many students’ basic writing skills are weak and are more likely to improve with shorter and more frequent assignments.”

A report by the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, a panel of academics gathered by the College Board, found that 75% of high school seniors never receive writing assignments in history or social studies.

The study also found that a major research and writing project required in the senior year of high school “has become an educational curiosity, something rarely assigned.” In addition, the report found that, by the first year of college, more than 50% of freshmen are unable to analyze or synthesize information or produce papers free of language errors.

Students learn how to do PowerPoint presentations; they design posters. It’s all very multi-media. When they do write, they’re often asked to express their feelings, not to make a coherent argument based on evidence.

At Roosevelt High School on Los Angeles’ Eastside, finding a teacher willing to assign a long paper would be like “finding a dinosaur,” said Aldo Parral, 32, who teaches social studies and Advanced Placement English.

When he was a student there, more than 15 years ago, he wrote a 12-page paper on the stock market crash of 1987. But in 10 years as a teacher at the school, Parral assigned no term papers because he thought journal entries and short essays provided enough writing experience.

This year, he decided to challenge students in his advanced classes with a four- to six-page research paper. He said most were receptive, because they knew such work would be expected in college. He added that Roosevelt’s English and social studies departments are pushing to include more research papers next year.

The story concludes with a Santa Monica High senior who’s never written a long term paper, though he’s enrolled in honors and AP classes. He says writing research papers would take time from his extracurriculars: “band, tennis, religious studies and political and youth groups.” He also claims there wouldn’t be time for required testing, though there are no required tests for 12th graders.

“To be accepted into a university, you have to be a stellar student, athletic, musically inclined and involved in the community,” he said. “For students like me, if I was getting term and research papers, it would hinder my ability to perform well in other classes and continue all of the extracurricular activities I am involved in.”

He’s going to Duke. Good luck on learning to organize and write a term paper, kid. You’ll need it.

The daughter of a friend of mine went to a small, nurturing private school that believed in emphasizing students’ strengths. Nobody told the girl she had to learn to organize and write long papers. In her freshman year at an elite college, she had to write long papers for every class. She flunked out.

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