Someone needs a Quantitative Literacy course

I think Mark Bauerlein might need a Quantitative Literacy course. He might possibly also need a dictionary to look up the meaning of “paradox”. From today’s Chronicle article “Studies Explore Whether the Internet Makes Students Better Writers”:

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, cites the reading and writing scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which have remained fairly flat for decades. It is a paradox, he says: “Why is it that with young people reading and writing more words than ever before in human history, we find no gains in reading and writing scores?”

If I was trying to make an argument that the explosion of social media has adversely affected student writing (as Bauerlein does later in that article) I am not sure I would choose a test that shows writing gains since social media began to take hold around the turn of the millennium:

12th Grade NAEP Results, Writing

12th Grade NAEP Results, Writing

I mean, honestly, I probably wouldn’t use NAEP in this context at all. As some of the people down-page in that Chronicle article note, standard measures of formal academic writing might not be the best tool to measure how students are communicating outside the classroom. And I am suspicious of NAEP in general.

But I think if I were trying to create a “paradox” where students were writing more than ever but are not getting any better I would make a particular effort to not cite that test as proof.

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One Comment on “Someone needs a Quantitative Literacy course”

  1. Mark says:

    As I noted to the Chronicle reporter, the gains in writing by 12th graders come only in the lower ends, from some “below basic” scorers rising to “basic.” That comes from some kids doing writing through digital tools who would otherwise not be doing any writing at all. For the rest, nothing. Indeed, as you can see, we actually had a 1 point drop in the highest category, “advanced,” from the last test.


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