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[Susan notes: The conclusion is a great summary of what's wrong with all writing prompts on high stakes tests.]

Published in Oregonian
03/21/2005

To the editor


I have been a teacher of writing and a published writer for more than forty years. Many of the pieces I write are short essays, not much different from what the new SAT prompts seem to expect from high school students (Mar. 12 Editorial). I find that such pieces take several hours of thinking--though not usually continuous thinking--before I put the first word on paper. Then I can write 500 words or more in an hour. Still, I am far from finished. I wait at least a day, read over my draft, and begin to revise. Revision for me means finding more precise words to express my meaning, shortening sentences, reordering some sentences, and taking out the trivia and extraneous comments. Depending on where I am going to submit an essay, I may or may not do further revision, but I always let my computer do a final spelling and grammar check.



I am not saying that the way I write is the only way or the best way, but I think that other writers--of any age--need much more than twenty-five minutes to produce an essay with any logic, coherence, or style. Clearly, the only purpose served by the new SAT writing test is to see if students can use a stock formula for an essay format and fill it in with English words and grammatical sentences.





Joanne Yatvin


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