Writing is an instrument of thinking that allows students to express their thoughts and helps them understand and share their perceptions of the world around them. Teachers can give students power in their world by teaching them to write and to write well. The written word “enables the writer, perhaps for the first time, to sense the power of...language to affect another. Through using, selecting and rejecting, arranging and rearranging language, the student comes to understand how language is used” (Greenberg and Rath 1985, 12).
The literacy needs for the 21st century are tremendous. Literacy was de_ ned a century ago by one’s ability to write one’s name. A literate person could write his or her name; an illiterate person could not. In 1940, more than “half of the U.S. population had completed no more than an eighth grade education,” which is an evolving statistic as education continues to change and develop into the 21st century (National Center for Education Statistics 2013).
Education as an institution is similarly evolving to meet the demands of what it means to be considered literate in the 21st century. With the advent of the Common Core State Standards (2010), students are considered literate individuals when:
1. They demonstrate independence.
2. They build strong content knowledge.
3. They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline.
4. They comprehend as well as critique.
5. They value evidence.
6. They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
7. They come to understand other perspectives and cultures.
Furthermore, students who meet the standards outlined by the Common Core State Standards by the time they leave high school are “prepared to enter college and workforce training programs” with success (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers 2010).
There is a clear movement toward fostering the skills necessary for students to succeed in real-world contexts and thrive as productive citizens and workers. This need to develop productive members of the workforce is in line with alarming findings related to drop out rates and the U.S. economy (Wolk 2011,75):
An analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education (2010) shows that the U.S. economy would grow significantly if the number of high school dropouts were cut in half. If just half of these students had graduated, research shows, they would have generated more than $4.1 billion in additional earning every year, and states and localities would have received additional taxes of more than $535 million. If the nation continues to lose students at the present rate, about 13 million students will drop out in the next 10 years at a financial loss of $3 trillion (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009)