Teaching children to write successfully is an area of great concern to educators in the 21st century. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, the writing skills of two-thirds of the students in elementary, middle, and high school are below grade level proficiency (Persky, Daane, & Jin, 2003). In 2003, the National Commission on Writing argued the case for a writing revolution to sweep the country in order to address such dire circumstances. Quite simply, such a revolution is necessary in order to put language arts and communication in the forefront of American classrooms to improve student writing.
While examining the writing program of one K4-8 school community does not qualify as a revolution in and of itself, it did enable the revolution to get started. Such an examination provided insight into the successful operations of a writing program along with its shortcomings and gaps. Evaluation of the curriculum, standards, program implementation, daily operations, teacher collaboration, assessment, and student work (both published and in draft form) allowed for a thorough assessment of program process.
The purpose of this study was twofold: to evaluate the program operations associated with writing at a K4-8 school and to determine the effectiveness of its implementation, instructional delivery to students, ability to address identified standards, and meet individualized needs of students. The central question of the study was: How effective is a private, religious, K4-8 school's writing program? The research methodology employed to resolve the questions addressed by the study was program evaluation, specifically through the method of process evaluation. Within this methodological framework, data collection included interviews, observation, document review, and focus groups. Research on this topic informed recommended program improvement plans for the organization being evaluated.
Findings from the study included: (1) writing instructors at this site were predisposed to using 6 of 11 instructional practices as defined by Graham and Perin (2007a), but would benefit from infusing the remaining 5 ( setting product goals, sentence combining, inquiry, peer assistance, and word processing) into their instructional repertoires; (2) teachers in grades K4-2 were proficient at addressing the challenges facing young writers and use several of the recommended instructional practices from Coker (2007), but would benefit from incorporating the following 3 instructional practices: using thematic play areas to engage students in authentic literacy activities, doing dialogic reading, and using big books with individual student copies for instruction into their instructional repertoires; (3) adopting a writing program that transcends all grade levels at the site and provides philosophical consistency on process writing approach instruction would be beneficial; (4) writing instruction is not occurring daily in all grade levels; alleviating this is essential; (5) effort should be placed on better recognizing student differences through both conferring and instructional format choices (whole group, small group, and individual) along with providing more opportunities for students to self-select writing topics; and (6) implementing a school-wide assessment of student writing would both increase communication amongst and between grade level teachers on instructional practices and student abilities, as well as, increase demand for student improvement both within a grade level and from one to the next.