The more I read this text, the more I find myself conversing with it -- arguing its points and nodding my head in agreement at some others. One thing this book and I agree on is that writing is a life skill and we need to take time to develop students' writing. From that point though, a lot of things complicate this process and standardized tests seem to be one of them, among others.
First, this text talks about how teachers feel pressured because of standardized tests and that shouldn't be the focus, yet the authors use standardized test scores to show how students are lacking in their writing skills. All I could think was how does writing on standardized tests accurately measure how well our students write? In many cases they are timed, and the product is essentially a rough draft. My question is, how often in "the real world" do we write a first draft of something and send it or publish it? Like, NEVER. (I apologize for the use of the filler word "like" in this instance but all that came to mind was the Taylor Swift song "Never Getting Back Together" -- like EVER -- and the way she stresses it in the song is the way I hear myself saying it in this post. BUT, I digress!) While I agree that there are likely gaps in writing in most students, given the examples of so-called college writing I've seen myself, I'm not sure that standardized tests are the best way to measure how well our students write. Essentially it's like assessing them on a first draft. Can you even imagine grading on a first draft? I can't. It's not realistic. Where's the collaboration? Where's the editing process? What would the final product look like? As we all know, some of us are better first draft writers than others, but that doesn't make one a better writer than the other, does it? Perhaps I'm wrong. I don't know.
Another point of contention I have is the fact that Lattimer asserts high school teachers don't think it's their job to teach writing and that it belongs at the elementary or middle school level. In my experience, all high school teachers have their students write and probably believe they are satisfying the writing across the curriculum idea. However, I wonder if it's a matter of HOW to teach writing for non-English teachers. Can anyone tell me if in their teacher training in disciplines outside of English if you were taught how to teach writing to students in your discipline? I'm legitimately curious to know, because as an English teacher, I had to take a course or two on how to teach writing. So I wonder if the same is true in other disciplines.
Writing absolutely needs to be taught across the curriculum -- explicitly. At the same time, we need to equip teachers of those disciplines how to teach writing in their subject area and sufficient class time needs to be allocated to writing in each classroom and discipline.
One last point I disagree with Lattimer on is her take on providing a framework for writing (i.e. thesis development, topic sentence development, outline, etc.). She argues that the thinking is taken out of the process when we break down the writing process in such a manner. I don't agree at all. Giving a student a starting point as in coming up with a working thesis or working topic sentences doesn't stop the thinking process. I do think it could do that if the student is fixated on a specific number of paragraphs or words, but some type of assistance with organizing thoughts absolutely needs to happen. This doesn't mean that one has to have a rigid format that a student must follow, but young writers need help organizing their ideas. I think offering such tools as graphic organizers and modeling the writing process personally benefits these students. Eventually they will acclimate to whatever writing process works best for them, but we're there to give them the tools to help them organize, and some students need graphic organizers or outlines and such to help them do so.
All in all I can agree with Lattimer that writing is essential in today's world regardless of the field in which one works/studies. I have trouble with the hypocrisy of criticizing standardized tests, yet using standardized test scores to prove how dire our student writing situation is. While our students should absolutely write about real-world situations and audiences, I alsob believe their writing should be assessed in a more realistic way than standardized tests. Additionally, I think we should assume good will when it comes to teachers in other disciplines as it relates to writing, but perhaps we need to think about how those teachers are trained to teach writing in their disciplines. Maybe then we would see an accurate picture of where our students' writing is and improvement in their skills as well.