Skip to comments.Poor Writing Costs Taxpayers Millions
Posted on 07/04/2005 2:15:59 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
States spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year on remedial writing instruction for their employees, according to a new report that says the indirect costs of sloppy writing probably hurt taxpayers even more.
The National Commission on Writing, in a report to be released Tuesday, says that good writing skills are at least as important in the public sector as in private industry. Poor writing not only befuddles citizens but also slows down the government as bureaucrats struggle with unclear instructions or have to redo poorly written work.
"It's impossible to calculate the ultimate cost of lost productivity because people have to read things two and three times," said Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, which conducted the survey for the commission.
The commission, established by the College Board, drew attention with its first report in 2003. That outlined problems with how writing is taught in American schools and proposed remedies. The group's second report, last year, tried to drum up support for writing education by highlighting the value that business and industry leaders place on writing skills.
This year, the commission surveyed human resource directors who oversee nearly 2.7 million state government employees, and found writing skills even more important than in the private sector.
While two-thirds of companies surveyed in the 2004 report said writing was an important responsibility for workers, 100 percent of the 49 states responding to the anonymous survey said it was. More than 75 percent said they take writing skills into account when hiring.
But while 70 percent of state managers said large majorities of their professional employees had adequate skills, just one-third said clerical and support staff did. The report estimates the states spend $221 million annually on remedial writing training, sometimes sending workers to $400-per-employee classes.
"You have to be able to write, convert an idea and turn it into words," said Bob Kerrey, the former U.S. senator and governor from Nebraska, who is chairman of the commission.
In public office, "I read things that were absolutely incomprehensible," Kerrey said. He shudders to think how Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, published 229 years ago Monday, would have read in standard, government-worker bureaucrat-speak.
"It would be 10 times as long, one-tenth as comprehensive, and would have lacked all inspiration," Kerrey said.
In a conference call interview last week, Kerrey, Huckabee, and Gaston Caperton - a former West Virginia governor who now leads the College Board - said many of the costs when state employees cannot express themselves clearly are hard to pin down. E-mail, which is so easy that workers can fire something off without thinking it through, may compound the problem.
"Increasingly as more things are done electronically, or via e-mail or blackberry, I think we tend to almost get even more sloppy," Huckabee said. "The truth is we need to get clear and concise. That adds to productivity."
Another hidden cost is that good ideas may never see the light of day.
"I see that all the time in writing and political speaking," Huckabee said. "There are some really bright people who can't communicate and as a result their ideas probably aren't given the attention they deserve."
The commission is calling for more Congressional funding for the National Writing Project, a professional development program for teachers, and what Kerrey says are proven methods for improving writing instruction in classrooms.
But the biggest boost to writing instruction may come from the decision by the College Board, under Caperton, to add a written essay to the SAT college entrance exam. The essay, which debuted in March, is expected to cause many high school English teachers to put more emphasis on composition. Critics, however, say the essay is formulaic, coachable, and a poor way to test the kind of writing skills students need in college.
On the Net
Requiring a school's staff to reapply is one of the most drastic reforms available to school districts.
..... .Northeast Middle, which underwent an overhaul in 1998, has had four principals in five years, according to its restructuring plan. More than a third of teachers are conditionally certified. This spring, more than four in five seventh-graders failed the state math test.
At West Baltimore Middle, where a seventh-grader was stabbed last year, nearly half of teachers have conditional or provisional certification, the restructuring plan says. More than 80 percent of seventh- and eighth-graders failed their math tests this spring.
At Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle, 84 percent of teachers do not meet the definition of "highly qualified" as required under No Child Left Behind. Eighty-nine percent of eighth-graders failed their math test this year; 100 percent failed last year. More than 90 percent of seventh-graders failed in math.
Teachers union president Marietta English said the union has been involved in interviewing teachers reapplying for their jobs and ensuring that those who are not hired back at their old schools or who wish to change schools are transferred to schools of their choice.
Teachers "in good standing" are guaranteed a job somewhere, Chinnia said: "We're not firing people." .........
You will never be unemployed...
& txt msgs donut hep
Spending time on FR will improve one's writing, spelling, grammar and sentence structure skills.
Unless, of course, one doesn't mind experiencing the Wrath of Xenalyte.
Ain't that the truth! Why, just on FR alone, we are plagued by so many illiterate trolls that we must have these fundraisers....
As the founder of FR's longest-running daily thread on FR (WFTD), I quite agree.
So THAT'S why we have quarterly fundraisers? Who knew.....
(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)
The Elements of Style
by William Strunk Jr., E.B. White, Roger Angell
Truer words aint been writ yet.
LOL! And, BTW:
i suport publick skools!
It never ceases to amaze me how many people on the internet can't spell the word "lose". They all spell it "loose". Are there a lot of keyboards out there with stuck "o" keys? LOL!
So, your saying that Xenalyte take's speling and grammer seriesly? Guess people here better use there spell checkers.
The report estimates the states spend $221 million annually on remedial writing training, sometimes sending workers to $400-per-employee classes.
If my writing failed to meet minimum standards, I would just expect to be fired. I gots to get me a gubmint job.
hahaha....I noticed that you are the 3rd person that thought of her on this thread....
"On Friday, I broke the story that the e-mails that Time turned over to the prosecutor that day reveal that Karl Rove is the source Matt Cooper is protecting."
Ah, but can they put a condom on a banana?
Seriously, I attended an English class in college a couple of years ago. Peer editing was painful, because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Some of those essays were terrible.
As for math....
If you want more laughs, you can read O'Donnell's entire effort here:
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