National Writing Project

Most Americans Support Greater Emphasis on Writing in Schools

2009 Survey on Writing Released; Teachers Share Classroom Successes with Members of Congress

For Immediate Release


WASHINGTON, DC, April 2, 2009 – Americans believe that knowing how to write well is more important than ever, viewing it as essential to success in college and the workplace. However, they fear that our public schools and our children are falling behind. Only 17 percent believe that when students graduate from high school, they have the writing skills they need for college, and three-quarters (75%) say that our education system from K-12 should put more emphasis on the teaching of writing.

These messages and others were drawn from survey participants of all income and education levels and all geographic areas. They are reported in a national public opinion survey conducted for the National Writing Project (NWP) by the research firm Belden Russonello & Stewart:  Writing, a National Pastime, Takes New Forms, which looks at the importance of writing for work and personal life and how well the nation’s public schools are preparing students to write.

“The survey clearly demonstrates that the public understands writing is a critical 21st century skill, and one that must not be ignored if students are to succeed in college and the workplace,” said Dr. Sharon J. Washington, executive director of the NWP. “This message is critical to deliver to members of Congress, and that is why today 400 dedicated NWP teachers are here in D.C., sharing their insights with their elected officials, urging them to support federal policy that helps teachers to become better instructors of writing and to increase student achievement in writing.”  

The 2009 NWP Spring Meeting is particularly timely, bringing together hundreds of teachers from around the country to tell their stories of helping young people learn a skill crucial to success in school and life—the ability to write. By a margin of two to one, the public supports this message and agrees that putting more resources into helping teachers teach writing (66%) is more important than putting resources into testing students to see how well they are learning to write (33%). 

The American public views writing ability as important to career success in all types of jobs, and the importance of writing has grown over the past decades. The survey shows that 80% agree that “there is a greater need than there was 20 years ago for a person to be able to write well in order to succeed,” while only 18% believe there is less need now.  

“It is more important than ever that young people master the skill of writing and experience the joy of expressing themselves and shaping a convincing and compelling message or argument,” said Washington. “Americans also recognize that to teach writing well, teachers need access to quality professional development.”   

The survey was conducted nationally by telephone, January 2-11, 2009, among a representative probability sample of 1,200 adults residing in the United States. For more, see the survey results.

The National Writing Project is the most significant coordinated effort to improve writing in America. NWP sites, located on more than 200 university and college campuses, serve over 135,000 participants annually. NWP continues to add new sites each year with the goal of placing the writing project within reach of every teacher in America. Through its professional development model, NWP develops the leadership, programs, and research needed for teachers to help students become successful writers and learners. For more information, visit