Teachers no longer assign research papers of more than a few pages, writes Leigh Muzslay of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
Many teachers lack the time and energy to assign and grade research papers. There are too many state-required lessons to plow through and too many kids to teach. And more and more, students lack basic writing skills.
. . . (Fred) Franke’s U.S. history students write no more than a page.
“Even in some cases, it’s difficult to get a complete sentence,” Franke said. “If it’s multiple choice or matching they’ll do it, but if you give any kind of homework assignment that requires them to read and answer questions, they won’t do it. It’s unbelievable.”
Three-quarters of high school seniors never get writing assignments in history or social studies, according to a 2003 report.
Even in their English classes, many students only get short writing assignments. A few weeks before Rachel Vosika graduated this year from Pacific High School in San Bernardino, she worked on the biggest research paper she’d ever been assigned – a three-page biography of Virginia Woolf. She needed at least four sources, all of which could be from the Internet.
The effects of this trend show up in college classes. Fewer than half of students turn in papers relatively free of language errors, according to a 2002 survey of professors at California’s public colleges and universities.
On his blog, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Weintraub argues state standards aren’t crowding out research papers. In fact, the standards call for teachers to teach these skills.
The reason they’re not doing it is because neither the schools nor parents nor the community demands it, and the skills required to produce such a paper have slowly drifted out of the curriculum.
The California standards for 11th grade history include 11 separate benchmarks, each with its own set of sub-topics. If each of those 11 standards is given equal time during a school year, each one could take 14 days of class time, and the teacher would still have several weeks to spare for assemblies, testing, and time wasted at the start and the end of the year.
Weintraub lists the standard for history students studying World War II. There are plenty of good topics for a research paper.