Conflicting Reports on Student Writing Quality - Better or Worse?

One of the great fears of the ubiquitous use of the Internet and texting has been that the quality of student writing will decline.  Yesterday I heard a report that college admissions officers are lamenting the current state of student writing.

At the same time, I've heard a couple of teachers declare that the general level of student writing has actually improved, often dramatically.   The explanation given has been that students are doing much more writing in general, for authentic communication, and that has improved their willingness to write and their comfort with writing as a medium.

Does anyone have experience with this on either side?  I'd also be interested if you know of any articles that discuss the same issue.  Thanks!

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Thanks for this reference. Well worth reading. Love the conclusion.
I'm interested to know if the internet and texting is the reason for the quality of writing declining. If you think about it students are READING more than ever. Students who would not normally read books are reading blogs, websites and other digital things of interest to them. I don't teach English, I teach math and sometimes it FEELS like students are coming to my algebra class less and less prepared, but I think it is important we separate facts from perception. More and more students are pushed into college prep classes when in the past these same students would not have seen the light of an algebra class. If our classes have more students in them who would have years ago been in remedial classes, it would give the feel that the students are not as proficient. Perhaps the ratio of proficient students is the same as it was 10 years ago, but the students were not as integrated as they are today...
Great point Alice regarding the possibility that more students are taking advanced classes and it may appear that writing skills have declined. This is my first year using a class Wiki and I have found it to be extremely helpful when it comes to providing feedback and encouraging students to improve their writing skills. My students are participating in a Global Cultural Exchange program with EFL and TESOL students from other countries and this activity also provides an incentive to use best writing skills when posting comments/replies on a community discussion board.
This is fascinating. Essentially, this was the question I posed to Mark Bauerlein when I interviewed him about his book, The Dumbest Generation. Thanks for resurrecting this discussion!
I read this article for my interdisciplinary class:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/2008/04/30/blogging-helps-encourage-teen...
It's mainly about how blogging helps students to write, even though it's an informal type of writing. In my opinion, I think the number of students who have improved their writing outweighs the ones who have declined in writing skills. When students make these mistakes, they don't do it consciously, and these mistakes could be used as an example of how not to write. The internet is a great place to practice writing and helps students get their creative juices flowing.
I was going to bring up the same article! I still see mixed views on this subject though. There is the article above saying that technology like blogging helps students because they know their writing is public and many will be able to view it and there is technology like texting with all the abbreviations/other endless misspellings. I have friends working in middle schools who say the writing is atrocious and the other feedback seems to be formal studies or articles, so I tend to lean on the side of saying that writing has seemed to decline.
I can address this from a College standpoint. I taught college computer literacy classes from 2006-2009. In the class I had them research something having to do with technology (their choice) and write a 3 page research paper. I saw the majority of students' have a harder time with this as time when on. Some of the most common problems were, not following directions, using first Person in the body, Using texting shortcuts, horrible grammar, and not double checking their sources. I once had a journalism major write an entire paper filled with first person, and instead of typing "I" (upper case i) she wrote "l" (lower case L).

I am in the process of designing new courses at a different school, and which I would like to add writing components, but am unsure (and a little scared) of the quality of writing that I should expect.

BTW I'm in CA.
I have read articles provided to me from my professor about students writing being better or worse due to the internet and texting. From the readings I understood that students were turning in work with emoticon faces and acronyms since they use it often in texting and post online for tweets and facebook. As far as having students write blogs for classwork their writing improved. Students having blogs for assignments to turn in created a classroom audience and motivated the students to write better since it would be seen by all their peers and not just by the teacher!
Actual writing occurs less and less because of time constraints and teaching-to-the test lessons. Students need to produce the non-stop writing that happens in a writing workshop oriented classroom to develop proficient skills. Now the decision needs to be made if the writing will be pen to paper or should kids do their writing on the computer?
I have seen some of the writings of middle school age students who text frequently and it was a bit disturbing. Their grammar and spelling was horrible. Most writing programs even come with spell checker, and this was apparently not used, why, I have no idea. Even if writing by hand we have dictionaries. They were certain that their spelling and grammar were correct because that is how they do things sending texts. For some reason they are unable or unwilling to separate text language from the English language.
I think that it's important to teach that different rules apply for different genres of writing. Texting and blogging have become types of writing. I teach my students (5th graders) that there are different expectations and needs for different writing purposes. I expect quality (grammar, spelling, organization, etc.) for assignments. If it is not quality, I give it back to them until it turns into quality. My students are motivated to be done with an assignment. I've found that if I don't accept it until it is quality they are mort apt to strive for quality the first time they turn it in. I think that what we expect of students is what we get, and we won't get quality writing from them unless we expect it.
I do agree that today's technologies have encouraged students to write more which leads to students being more comfortable with writing. Though with todays styles I am not sure I agree with the quality of the writing improving. I know as a student, I struggle when trying to write a formal paper to leave out all my slang writing habbits.

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