In "The Writing Revolution" (October Atlantic), Peg Tyre traces the problems at one troubled New York high school to a simple fact: The students couldn't write coherent sentences. In 2009, New Dorp High made a radical change. Instead of trying to engage students through memoir exercises and creative assignments, the school required them to write expository essays and diagram sentences. Within two years, the school's pass rates for the English Regents test and the global-history exam were soaring. The school's drop-out rate - 40 percent in 2006 - has fallen to 20 percent.
The experiment suggests that the trend toward teaching creative writing was hurting American students. Beginning Tuesday, September 25, TheAtlantic.com will be hosting a wide-ranging debate on how to best teach writing. Check back here tomorrow for the opening posts.