We Get National Reading Test Results Every 2 Years. Writing? Try 20.

Every two years we hear how American students are doing in reading and math, but we’ve heard nothing about their writing since 2011. And we won’t be hearing anything more until the next test—in 2030.

Reading and math are important, which is why Congress mandated those tests be given every two years as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the NAEP. But writing is equally vital—and not just for success in college and the workplace. Writing can provide powerful boosts to reading comprehension, analytical thinking, and learning in general.

But as the results from NAEP writing tests in 2011 show, American students, on average, don’t write well. Only 27% of eighth- and twelfth-graders scored “Proficient” or above in writing in 2011, an even lower proficiency rate than the one for reading, where it’s hovered at around a third. For certain groups of students, the writing results are significantly worse. For example, among twelfth-graders whose parents didn’t finish high school, only 8% are Proficient, and 40% score below the “Basic” category. Given these alarming figures, it seems we should be testing writing at least as often as reading, if not more.