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On June 6, Ellen Fogelberg, the District’s literacy and early childhood director, together with a panel of 11 teachers, presented to the School Board a proposed writing plan for pre-school through eighth grade. The plan is to increase the amount of writing and the time devoted to writing. It is based on research, the expectations of the recently approved Common Core State Standards and college and career readiness, said Ms. Fogelberg.

“This translates into teachers providing adequate and dedicated time for students to write daily,” says the plan. “It also means teachers must create an environment that encourages and celebrates writing.”

The purpose of the plan is not only to teach students over time how to write effectively in a variety of formats (e.g., argument, informative/explanatory and narratives), but also to use writing as a tool for learning and as a way to develop comprehension and critical thinking skills.

For example, students would be taught how to write summaries, take notes and create questions and write answers to questions about texts.

As part of the writing process, they would also be taught how to state their ideas in a clear and concise manner, how to find and use appropriate resources, including the Internet, how to analyze information to draw conclusions, and how to present arguments.

The panel of teachers illustrated how they currently teach writing and use it as a tool for learning. “We are not starting from scratch,” said Ms. Fogelberg. “We are building on what others are doing.

“Implementing this plan should result in more students improving their ability to write effectively for a variety of purposes and audiences, and more students using writing to learn and understand new ideas and concepts,” she said.

The writing plan would be phased in over three years with different writing activities at different grade levels. The plan calls for professional development and coaching for teachers and the formation of an assessment plan – for both students and staff – on a phased-in basis.

Board members said they were very supportive of the plan. They asked how the administration planned to implement the writing curriculum consistently in the schools, how teachers would assess students’ work on a consistent basis, whether eighth-graders could be evaluated for knowledge of grammar, and whether students could be taught evidence- or argument-based writing at earlier grade levels. Richard Rykhus asked that measurable goals be set after baseline data was established in the first year.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...