Our universities could help student writing and improve college readiness, if they stopped asking for personal essays as an admissions requirement and instead asked for graded academic writing – a research report, an English or history paper.

I paraphrase Robert Pondiscio’s call to arms on the East Coast centric Fordham Institute blog.  It is a piece I wish my students would read. Joanne Jacobs links it to an Atlantic article on oversharing to get into college. It makes me wish I had spent some time as an Ivy League admissions counselor, so I could get into the market for $14,000 four-day college-app cram camps. For the most part, I wish my students would write more than one draft of their college application essays. Most of my students do not understand the art of writing as an iterative process.  This year, I added a revision memo as a metacognitive reflection tool into my final research paper expectations. Unfortunately very few of my tenth grade students were willing to reflect on what improvements they need to incorporate into their academic writing. Would parents would demand an increased emphasis on academic writing in high school, if this were to become a de facto Ivy League admissions policy?

Social Studies teachers need to increase writing assignments under Common Core, yet many are afraid of increasing their workloads. Peer review can transfer the feedback loop from teachers to students. Peer review programs give students additional practice in developing the skills necessary to recognize effective thesis statements, use textual evidence, and refine arguments. Learning by evaluation protocols can systemically improve students’ self-assessment abilities and provide data for improving Social Studies writing instruction.  Teachers can increase the use of writing-from-sources tasks, which integrate reading and writing (DBQs) by using free technology (Edmodo) to display anchor papers and exemplars. Further, all teachers should train students how to evaluate academic writing within their discipline.  Students can learn how to increase their inter rater reliability and validate peer-review rubrics using Google Forms.