Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Houston, Texas, 16 May 2007

Page Per Year Plan©
By Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review

“Reading maketh a Full Man, Conference a Ready Man, and Writing an Exact Man.”

—Francis Bacon, Of Studies, 1625

Diane Ravitch recently pointed out that, “the campaign against homework goes on. Its success will guarantee a steady decline in the very activities that matter most in education: independent reading; thoughtful writing; research projects.”

It is clearer and clearer that most high school students, when they do read a book, read fiction. The College Board’s Reading List of 101 Books for the College-Bound Student includes only four works of nonfiction: Walden, Emerson’s Essays, Night, and The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. Nothing by David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer, or any other great contemporary (or past) historian was suggested for the “College-Bound Student.”

The SAT, ACT, and NAEP writing assessments, and most state writing standards, require no prior knowledge and challenge students to write their opinions and personal stories in 25 minutes. Unless college history professors start assigning term papers by saying: “‘History repeats itself.’ See what you can write about that in 25 minutes and turn it in six weeks from now,” our high school graduates will continue to find that they have been sadly misled about the demands for academic writing they will face.

A national study done for The Concord Review in 2002, of the assignment of high school history term papers, found that 81% of public high school history teachers never assign a 20-page paper, and 62% never assign a 12-page paper any more, even to high school seniors. The Boston Latin School, a famous exam school [1636], no longer assigns the “traditional history term paper.”

One reason for this, I believe, is that teachers find that by the time their students are Juniors and Seniors in high school, they have done so little academic expository writing that they simply could not manage a serious history research paper, if they were asked to do one.

For eight [19] years, I have suggested, to those who doubt the ability of U.S. high school seniors to write academic history research papers, that schools should start on our Page Per Year Plan©, which would work as follows:

Each first grader would be required to write a one-page paper on a subject other than herself or himself, with at least one source. A page would be added each year to the required academic writing, such that, for example, fifth graders would have to write a five-page paper (five sources), ninth graders would have to write a nine-page research paper, with nine sources, and so on, until each and every senior could be asked to prepare a 12-page academic research paper (twelve sources), with endnotes and bibliography, on some historical topic, which the student could choose each year.

This would gradually prepare students for future academic writing tasks, and each senior could graduate from high school knowing more about some important topic than anyone else in the class, and he/she might also have read at least one nonfiction (history) book before college. This could reduce the need for remedial instruction in writing (and perhaps in remedial reading as well) at the college level.

At each grade level, teachers would need more time to help students plan their papers and to evaluate and comment on them when the papers came in, but with our Page Per Year Plan©, all students would be likely to graduate from U.S. high schools with better academic expository writing skills and better reading skills.

In our public schools, the power over reading and writing belongs to the English Department, and many social studies and history teachers, perhaps especially those who are preparing students for AP exams, do not believe their students have the time to read a history book or write a history research paper.

While this is the rule, there are exceptions, and I have been glad to publish history papers written by AP history students [and others, from 41 countries] in the last 20 [31] years of The Concord Review. But all too often, those exemplary papers were written by students putting in the extra time and effort to do an independent study, of the sort that Diane Ravitch believes is now in steady decline in our schools.

Of course it is rewarding for me to receive letters, like one from Shounan Ho when she was at Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles, which included a comment that: 

“I wrote this paper independently, during my own time out of school. My motives for doing so were both academic and personal. Although history has always been my favorite subject, I had never written a paper with this extensive research before. After reading the high quality of essays in The Concord Review, I was very inspired to try to write one myself. I thought it was a significant opportunity to challenge myself and expand my academic horizons. Thus during the summer before my Senior year, I began doing the research for my own paper.” —She became a John Jay Scholar at Columbia University, and it seems likely she found that she had prepared herself well for college work.

But what about those students who depend on educators to set academic standards which will prepare them for the reading and writing tasks ahead? For those students, I recommend that teachers consider the Page Per Year Plan© to help their students get ready. Again, this plan would also make it somewhat more likely that our high school graduates would have been asked to read perhaps one complete history book before they leave for college or for work.

“Teach with Examples”
Will Fitzhugh (founder), National Writing Board [1998];
The Concord Review (1987); TCR Coaches [2014]; TCR Summer Program [2014]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, MA 01776 USA
(978) 443-0022;;
Varsity Academics®

Monday, May 7, 2018

TCR ACADEMY PILOT 2019; Houston, Texas

TCR Academy Pilot

May 3, 2018 by Will Fitzhugh EducationViews Contributor

Chicago 2019

Many secondary teachers of History either do not have or do not take the opportunity to do serious research on a History topic of their own. The TCR Academy, modeled after the TCR Summer Program for secondary students, offers teachers a two-week workshop where they will receive encouragement, guidance, and mentoring as they work on a 6,000-word (or more) History research paper on a topic which they have chosen to examine.

This Historical research will allow them to refresh their research and writing skills, and to learn more about a Historical topic which they may be teaching to students in the year(s) to come. They will recover the satisfactions that come from deepening their knowledge of History. There is a good chance that they will also be better History teachers as a result of this experience, and they will be much more likely to ask their students to work on a History research paper of their own when they return to their schools.

The TCR Academy in 2019 will be in Chicago, and the cost is $4,500 for the two-week residential program. A few scholarships are available for this Pilot Program, but if teachers can bring professional development funds with them, that will be a big help. For more information, contact Will Fitzhugh, founder, The Concord Review, at]