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Secondary Education Is More Important Than Ever

Updated on February 25, 2015

Importance of Writing In High School

Although there is a growing awareness of educational practices and protocols in today’s schools, it has never been more accurate than now that if a student is not successful in middle and high school, they run the risk of losing much more than an education. For the past 15 years, the spotlight has been on the disparity between the educational achievements of primarily minority urban youth and their suburban counterparts. This focus has led to educational reform in America culminating in such programs as No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. Without success in middle and high school, contemporary adolescents face a variety of almost insurmountable odds.

With the emphasis on the common core, there is a natural scaffolding process going on. Teachers are not teaching stand-alone lessons, and with the standards requirements, they are not afforded the time to go back and do a complete review, or re-teach information or skills the student should have come to them with. While this progression does lead to a more future ready student, it does not give room to those students who do not succeed from the beginning.

Each grade builds upon another. One example might be in looking at the Social Studies Standards (Adler, 2010. n.a., 2013). In 1st grade, a student concentrates on how their lives compare with families from other time periods. If a student cannot make those connections at this early age, they may well not have the skills to succeed in 3rd grade while exploring communities. Furthermore, in 9th grade as they look for connections between societies and the changes that take place in that arena through intercultural relationships they may struggle to the point of frustration. With this in mind, students need to concentrate on creating great habits at an earlier age than ever.

Many times colleges, when deciding upon admission, will look at a student’s complete body of work. With increased competition for admission, colleges are looking at performance as early as freshman year to make decisions on entry to post-secondary schools. Highly competitive Florida State University receives over 30,000 freshman applications each year, and according to their website the admission process looks at a cumulative grade point average of the first three years of high school (2013). If a student does not start strong in high school, it can affect their overall grade, giving them less chance of getting into their first choice of college. Even if they do make the cut, many high school students are still ill-equipped to perform at a college level.

Even though educational methods have improved, students are not entering college with postsecondary literacy skills. In Lives on the Boundary (2005), Mike Rose points out that that in the 19th-century college professors were bemoaning the lack of writing skills by incoming freshmen. With the passage of time, this has not changed. Birol et al. (2013) describes the current environment of incoming science majors as needing basic paragraph structure skills, and argues the advantages of having a course within the science department devoted to learning how to write at a college level.

Even to a lesser degree, as a writing coach at SUNY Empire State College, the majority of first-time students I worked with lacked basic academic written communication skills. The inconsistency of students ability to read and write at a college level after high school leaves them at a disadvantage. A student in today's world, where technology is advancing at a far greater rate than we are developing the student's education, can not afford to not succeed at a high level from the beginning.

Consider this from The Atlanta Journal Constitution:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that weekly median annual earnings in 2012 for a high school dropout were $471; $652 for a high school graduate; and $1,066 for a college graduate with a bachelor's degree. Multiplying those weekly figures by 52, and the annual earnings for a high school dropout were $24,492, compared with $33,904 for a high school graduate and $55,432 for a college graduate (Davis, 2013).

Even though Davis does go on to point out that there is other data showing this earning difference to be smaller, the fact remains that the earning potential, and by extension the lifestyle of adults, rises conjunctively with success in high school.

So how do we get these underachieving students to be able to communicate effectively at academic college levels? Rose (2005)suggests giving them opportunity after opportunity to express themselves through writing by interesting them in reading and foster that interest. Guide them in their learning. Correct them when they need correcting. Teach them to do it right; not just write, but write well. A greater emphasis on writing and increased practice can only improve a student's ability to effectively communicate at a post high school level (Motavalli et al., 2007). For a student, expecting even the most fundamental of existence in the future world, there is no choice but to learn to succeed at the earliest possible time. As educators, it is our job to not only teach them the content they need to advance, but we also must bear the responsibility of motivating them to be driven to success in the 21stn century.


Adler, S. A. (2010). National curriculum standards for social studies: a framework for teaching, learning and assessment. Silver Spring, Md: National Council for the Social Studies.

Birol, G., Han, A., Welsh, A., & Fox, J. (2013). Impact of a First-Year Seminar in Science on Student Writing and Argumentation. Journal Of College Science Teaching, 43(1), 82-91.

Davis, J. (2013, Aug 02). Education generally makes difference in earnings. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved from /docview/1416573207? accountid= 8067

Freshman admissions. (n.d.). FSU Admissions. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from http://

Motavalli, P. P., Patton, M. D., & Miles, R. J. (2007). Use of web-based student extension publications to improve undergraduate student writing skills. Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, 36, 95–102.

New York State Common core 9-12 Social Studies Framework. (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2013, from resource/ attachments/ss-framework-9-12.pdf.cfm

Rose, M. (2005). Lives on the boundary: a moving account of the struggles and achievements of America's educationally underprepared ([Rev. ed.). New York: Penguin Books.


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