The Writing Revolution – Part One

A Change In Formal Writing Instruction

In 2009, when Monica DiBella entered New Dorp, a public high school near a grimy beach on Staten Island, her academic future was cloudy. Monica had struggled to read in early childhood, and had repeated first grade. At elementary school, she received more than 100 hours of tutoring. By fourth grade, she’d fallen behind her classmates again. In the years that followed, Monica became comfortable with math and learned to read passably well.  She never seemed able to express her thoughts in writing.

Freshman year at New Dorp,  her history teacher asked her to write an essay on Alexander the Great. At a loss, she jotted down her opinion of the Macedonian ruler. Monica wrote: “I think Alexander the Great was one of the best military leaders.” An essay? “Basically, that wasn’t going to happen,” she says, sweeping her blunt-cut brown hair from her brown eyes. “It was like, well, I got a sentence down. What now?” Monica’s mother, Santa, looked over her daughter’s answer—six simple sentences, one of which didn’t make sense—with a mixture of fear and frustration. Even a coherent, well-turned paragraph seemed beyond her daughter’s ability. An essay? “It just didn’t seem like something Monica could ever do.”

“Writing as a way to study, to learn, or to construct new knowledge or generate new networks of understanding, has become increasingly rare.”


For decades, no one at New Dorp seemed to know how to help low-performing students like Monica. Unfortunately, this troubled population made up most of the school, which caters primarily to students from poor and working-class families. In 2006, 82 percent of freshmen entered the school reading below grade level. Students routinely scored poorly on the English and history Regents exams, a New York State graduation requirement: the essay questions were just too difficult. Many would simply write a sentence or two and shut the test booklet.

In the spring of 2007, administrators calculated graduation rates and found that four out of 10 students who had started New Dorp as freshmen had dropped out. It became one of the approximately 2,000 lowest-performing high schools in the nation. City officials, who had been closing comprehensive high schools all over New York and opening smaller, specialized ones in their stead, signaled that New Dorp was in the crosshairs.

The school’s principal, Deirdre DeAngelis, began a detailed investigation into why, ultimately, New Dorp’s students were failing. By 2008, she and her faculty had come to a singular answer: bad writing. Students’ inability to translate thoughts into coherent, well-argued sentences, paragraphs, and essays was severely impeding intellectual growth in many subjects. Consistently, one of the largest differences between failing and successful students was that only the latter could express their thoughts on the page. If nothing else, DeAngelis and her teachers decided, beginning in the fall of 2009, New Dorp students would learn to write well. “When they told me about the writing program,” Monica says, “well, I was skeptical.” With disarming candor, sharp-edged humor, and a shy smile, Monica occupies the middle ground between child and adult—she can be both naive and knowing. “On the other hand, it wasn’t like I had a choice. I go to high school. I figured I’d give it a try.”

New Dorp’s Writing Revolution, which placed an intense focus, across nearly every academic subject, on teaching the skills that underlie good analytical writing, was a dramatic departure from what most American students—especially low performers—are taught in high school. The program challenged long-held assumptions about the students and bitterly divided the staff. It also yielded extraordinary results. As sophomores, the students who had recieved the writing instruction their freshmen year were already scoring higher on exams than any previous New Dorp class.

Pass rates for the English Regents, for example, bounced from 67 percent in June 2009 to 89 percent in 2011; for the global-­history exam, pass rates rose from 64 to 75 percent. The school reduced its Regents-repeater classes—cram courses designed to help struggling students collect a graduation requirement—from five classes of 35 students to two classes of 20 students. The number of kids enrolling in a program that allows them to take college-level classes shot up from 148 students in 2006 to 412 students last year. Most important, a greater proportion of students who enter as freshmen leave wearing a cap and gown, although the makeup of the school has remained about the same, ­roughly 40 percent of students are poor, a third are Hispanic, and 12 percent are black.

Graduation rates were expected to hit 80 percent by Spring. This was a staggering improvement over the 63 percent before the Writing Revolution began. New Dorp, once the black sheep of the borough, is now held up as a model of successful school turnaround. “To be able to think critically and express that thinking, it’s where we are going,” says Dennis Walcott, New York City’s schools chancellor. “We are thrilled with what has happened there.”

In the coming months, the conversation about the importance of formal writing instruction and its place in a public-school curriculum—­the conversation that was central to changing the culture at New Dorp—will spread throughout the nation. Over the next two school years, 46 states will align themselves with the Common Core State Standards. For the first time, elementary-­school students will be required to write informative and persuasive essays.

By high school, students are expected to produce mature and thoughtful essays in English class as well as history and science classes. Common Core’s architect, David Coleman, says the new writing standards are meant to reverse a pedagogical pendulum that has swung too far, favoring self-­expression and emotion over lucid communication.

“As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t care about what you feel or what you think,” he famously told a group of educators last year in New York. Early accounts suggest that the new writing standards will deliver a high-voltage shock to the American public. Last spring, Florida school officials administered a writing test that, for the first time, required 10th-graders to produce an expository essay aligned with Common Core goals. The pass rate on the exam plummeted from 80 percent in 2011 to 38 percent this year.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2007, only 1 percent of all 12th-graders nationwide could write a sophisticated, well-­organized essay. Other research has shown that 70 to 75 percent of students in grades four through 12 write poorly. Over the past 30 years, as knowledge-based work has come to dominate the economy, American high schools have raised achievement rates in mathematics by providing more­-extensive and higher-level instruction. High schools are still graduating large numbers of students whose writing skills better equip them to work on farms or in factories than in offices; for decades, achievement rates in writing have remained low.

  • ciprofloxacin drug
    Posted at 22:23h, 19 April

    ciprofloxacin drug

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • lowest price on generic cialis 40mg
    Posted at 02:36h, 20 April

    lowest price on generic cialis 40mg

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

    Posted at 06:39h, 22 April

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • generic albuterol inhaler price
    Posted at 03:25h, 27 April

    generic albuterol inhaler price

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • can you buy naltrexone over the counter
    Posted at 15:44h, 29 April

    can you buy naltrexone over the counter

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • generic sildenafil
    Posted at 00:46h, 05 May

    sildenafil generic

    Order Viagra Online

  • levitra vs viagra
    Posted at 00:30h, 08 May

    levitra online

    levitra 20mg side effects occupation – levitra 10mg – levitra 10mg username

  • new zealand tylenol
    Posted at 12:41h, 08 May

    new zealand tylenol

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • buy generic 100mg viagra online
    Posted at 12:47h, 08 May

    buy generic 100mg viagra online

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • viagra 100mg
    Posted at 14:00h, 10 May

    viagra for sale

    viagra 100mg

  • generic viagra canada price
    Posted at 21:57h, 10 May

    viagra online

    viagra discount price – viagra dose viagra vs viagra announcements – viagra vs viagra levitra gstbk_add.php?sid=

  • viagra 100mg
    Posted at 00:34h, 15 May

    viagra 100mg

    buy viagra online no prescription usa – diferencia entre viagra y viagra – viagra 5mg cost location

  • erection pills online
    Posted at 12:21h, 18 May

    ed medications

    best erectile dysfunction pills

  • generic cialis
    Posted at 18:01h, 21 May

    buy cialis online without script

    cialis uk buy generic – cialis from canada cheap last post by –

  • best erection pills
    Posted at 18:06h, 21 May

    erectile dysfunction medicines

    best over the counter ed pills

  • generic ed pills
    Posted at 17:12h, 25 May

    best over the counter ed pills

    best otc ed pills

  • chloroquine brand name
    Posted at 00:33h, 27 May

    chloroquine brand name

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • sale cialis
    Posted at 20:16h, 29 May

    generic cialis online

    sale cialis

  • hydroxychloroquine price in india
    Posted at 02:33h, 03 June

    hydroxychloroquine price in india

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • best online pharmacy
    Posted at 22:11h, 05 June

    online pharmacy

    best online pharmacy

  • viagra generic
    Posted at 04:07h, 06 June

    viagra 100mg

    viagra for daily use commercial thanked – viagra 10 mg effectiveness no new posts – viagra 7uk

  • online pharmacy
    Posted at 10:05h, 11 June

    canadian pharmacy

    canadian pharmacy

  • Buy cialis online
    Posted at 09:06h, 14 June

    cialis generic

    Buy cheap cialis

  • generic vardenafil
    Posted at 07:40h, 19 June

    vardenafil 20mg

    levitra 20 mg

  • levitra online
    Posted at 14:56h, 23 June

    vardenafil cost

    buy levitra online

  • vardenafil generic
    Posted at 00:58h, 26 June

    buy vardenafil

    levitra pills

  • coupons for sildenafil 50mg
    Posted at 15:39h, 29 June

    coupons for sildenafil 50mg

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • online slots for real money
    Posted at 02:31h, 30 June

    big fish casino online

    online casinos real money

  • buy cialis
    Posted at 10:21h, 01 July

    buy cialis

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • betfair casino online nj
    Posted at 06:04h, 02 July

    hard rock casino online

    betfair casino online

  • viagra alternative
    Posted at 22:52h, 03 July

    discount viagra

    cheap viagra online canadian pharmacy

  • real money casino app
    Posted at 07:20h, 06 July

    casino real money

    real casinos online no deposit

  • casino online games
    Posted at 12:00h, 08 July

    best real casino online

    pala casino online

  • cialis coupon
    Posted at 12:50h, 11 July

    cialis tadalafil

    cialis 20mg

  • cheapest viagra 50 mg
    Posted at 16:48h, 11 July

    cheapest viagra 50 mg

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • pay day loans
    Posted at 07:34h, 13 July

    online payday loans

    cash advance

  • careprost bimatoprost ophthalmic solution 0.03
    Posted at 19:10h, 13 July

    careprost bimatoprost ophthalmic solution 0.03

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • cialis without doctor prescription
    Posted at 00:27h, 15 July

    cialis without doctor prescription

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • personal loan
    Posted at 00:31h, 15 July

    loans online

    pay day loans

  • cash advance online
    Posted at 03:09h, 18 July

    loans online

    online payday loans

  • centurion slot
    Posted at 23:22h, 21 July

    miami club casino

    Flower networked Casino websites amidst considerable commission doubledown facebook nfl parlay bets best sports betting sites closed reward for strange amateur

  • viagra cost
    Posted at 10:28h, 22 July

    viagra cost

    viagra 100mg

  • order viagra online
    Posted at 21:54h, 22 July

    order viagra online

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • 5 mg cialis
    Posted at 19:02h, 23 July

    cialis internet

    generic for cialis

  • cialis buy
    Posted at 08:44h, 29 July

    new cialis

    20 cialis

  • buy cheap viagra internet
    Posted at 16:03h, 29 July

    buy cheap viagra internet

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • cialis buy
    Posted at 19:26h, 31 July

    new cialis

    generic cialis

  • new cialis
    Posted at 08:02h, 03 August

    cialis buy

    buy cialis

  • cialis internet
    Posted at 21:36h, 04 August

    cialis internet

    cialis 5 mg

  • viagra pills
    Posted at 01:35h, 08 August

    online pharmacy viagra

    purchase viagra

  • buy chloroquine phosphate
    Posted at 07:45h, 09 August

    buy chloroquine phosphate

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • slot machines
    Posted at 13:10h, 09 August

    golden nugget online casino

    slots real money

  • online casino real money usa
    Posted at 02:35h, 13 August

    chumba casino

    casino online slots

  • play for real online casino games
    Posted at 21:08h, 16 August

    real money online casinos usa

    casino slots

  • real money casino games
    Posted at 02:48h, 19 August

    slots real money

    best real casino online

  • sildenafil online
    Posted at 19:55h, 23 August

    canada viagra

    viagra reviews

  • viagra alternative
    Posted at 23:02h, 25 August

    buy viagra

    online viagra

  • cheap viagra
    Posted at 00:50h, 28 August

    cheap viagra


  • viagra sample
    Posted at 22:52h, 28 August

    viagra for women

    viagra pill

  • buy viagra uk
    Posted at 23:15h, 29 August

    buy viagra uk


  • viagra online usa
    Posted at 12:58h, 31 August

    viagra online usa


  • cialis dosage
    Posted at 08:34h, 01 September

    generic cialis tadalafil best buys

    tadalafil reviews

  • buy viagra cheap
    Posted at 04:13h, 03 September

    buy viagra cheap


  • marley drug sildenafil
    Posted at 02:56h, 04 September

    marley drug sildenafil

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One

  • levitra
    Posted at 16:14h, 04 September



  • viagra vs cialis
    Posted at 06:43h, 05 September

    tadalafil reviews

    cialis 5mg

  • generic viagra cost
    Posted at 13:45h, 06 September

    generic viagra cost


  • viagra without a doctor prescription
    Posted at 22:56h, 08 September

    viagra without a doctor prescription


  • chumba casino
    Posted at 05:39h, 15 September

    online casino


  • free slots
    Posted at 10:30h, 18 September

    slot games

    real money online casino

  • buy viagra cyprus
    Posted at 13:15h, 21 September

    buy viagra cyprus


  • cialis 20mg
    Posted at 21:55h, 21 September

    cialis 20mg

    Writing Program for Kids | The Writing Revolution – Part One