Fiction and poetry certainly have a place in America's schools. But when students don't learn how to articulate ideas, their options erode -- and our whole society is worse off for it.
It has been satisfying to see my recent Atlantic magazine story prompt so much passionate and thoughtful commentary. It seems clear that as schools begin to incorporate the Common Core standards into their curriculum, asking students to "respond" to what they read will no longer be enough. Most elementary, middle, and high schools will need to improve the kind of writing instruction they provide our students.
Since the publication of the article, I've heard from many parents, teachers, college professors, and employers who would welcome that development. Writing instruction, however, will not be a quick fix for troubled schools. For New Dorp teachers to understand in a granular way what they didn't know and were not teaching, they had to engage in sustained rigorous inquiry under the forceful leadership of their principal and the insightful guidance of Baruch instructor Nell Scharff.
Judith Hochman's program--methodical, structured and rich--developed in those teachers the capacity to instruct all students, even struggling ones, on how best to express ideas in writing. Make no mistake, though. The Hochman program is no Band-Aid for a poorly run school, an uninterested instructor or a half-baked curriculum. As I tried to reflect in my story, it takes sustained effort and unwavering focus to do what New Dorp did. It also takes time.