Straight from the Source: a Candid Illustration of Four Secondary English Teachers' Beliefs, Experiences, and Tensions with Teaching High School Writing
Recent scholarship estimates that approximately 50% of incoming students are unprepared for college-level writing. (Sanoff 2006; Achieve, Inc. 2007; Complete College America 2012; Hechinger Report 2016). For the past 150 years, high school teachers have been blamed for the inadequate writing skills of college-bound students. Their biggest critics are college professors who frequently complain that many of their college freshmen cannot compose effective and rhetorically-sound texts. For some, this added labor could lead to a perpetuation of tension and finger pointing between the two groups of educators. However, in many of these rounds of this ongoing ‘blame game’, there is a side that seems to be missing and a voice that seems to be muted: that of the high school teachers. This paper illustrates high school teachers’ definitions and perceptions of and about academic writing. Through the facilitation of focus groups and semi-structured interviews, as well as the analysis of course materials, the researcher provides a comprehensive and candid narrative of the beliefs, experiences, and tensions that high school writing teachers negotiate as they integrate writing instruction into their existing English/Language Arts curriculum. In prioritizing the voices of high school teachers, this research will be a necessary first step to inciting more high school-college conversations and future collaborations. This text outlines implications for several groups influenced by secondary writing instruction including teachers, students, administrators, and teacher educators. This research will not only have grand implications for English educators, both at the secondary and postsecondary level, but student writers as well as we continue to work towards making the transition from high school to college writing easier for our college-bound students.