Right call on freshman writing course in Nashua

As adults, we sometimes forget how fortunate we are that we were taught to write as children.

Even with advancements in technology allowing for on-the-fly spell-check, grammar edits and voice-to-text dictation, the computer will not write a good cover letter nor make a convincing argument. Writing is a skill – and it’s an essential one to compete in today’s environment.

The Nashua Board of Education reminded us of that last week when it chose to add a new writing course to the high school curriculum.

Acting on a recommendation of its Curriculum and Evaluation Committee, the board approved a new freshman writing class to be required for all first-year students next fall. It will replace the at times controversial Freshman Seminar, which was introduced as a mandatory course nearly 10 years ago with the opening of the city’s second high school.

Freshman Seminar was intended to help first-year students ease into the high-school environment, but it was met with resistance from students and parents, who questioned its value for years after it was implemented. In 2011, it was downgraded to an elective.

As envisioned, the new course approved last week will teach students about the writing process, including how to process informational text. It is not intended to be a remedial course, nor will students be separated based on their academic abilities.

“We want to emphasize that this freshman writing course is for students at all levels and all ability levels,” Assistant Superintendent Althea Sheaff said at the curriculum committee meeting earlier this month. “Everyone needs to become better writers. It is not a remedial course, but something for everyone.”

All teachers will be challenged to make writing a priority in all subject areas to ensure writing instruction becomes a regular part of each student’s day.

“We look at this as a first step in a much larger process,” Nashua North head English teacher Chris Saunders said. “We think that by starting this course and involving the other head teachers, everybody in the school will begin to discuss writing.”

We applaud the board for approving this course because writing skills form a foundation upon which individuals are able to excel.

In the short term, it should help students achieve better communication skills and stronger test scores. In the long term, it should help them gain confidence, knowledge and skills they will need later in life – as a college student, parent, employee or business owner.

And, like it or not, writing skills are often used to judge one’s intellect and ability to learn when applying for a job, in most cases well before contact is made between the employer and prospective employee.

As such, school board members should be commended for authorizing this mandatory writing course for all incoming freshmen.

Now it’s up to the teachers and students to make it happen.