The Montana State Board of Education’s rules direct districts to develop a policy for a significant writing program. As a result, the Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts, NCTE’s Montana affiliate, issued a policy statement and sent it to every district in Montana underscoring the importance of writing instruction and offering assistance to districts in developing their own policy regarding significant writing. This statement defines a “significant writing program” thus:
1. Explicit writing instruction is part of the course content as a significant, recurring activity;
2. Students use writing as a tool for learning and understanding course content;
3. Students develop information literacy by finding, evaluating, and using information effectively;
4. Students formulate and express opinions and ideas in writing;
5. Students learn to write in forms and for purposes and audiences typical of disciplines and professions in ways that are clearly separate from foundational skills courses;
6. Students receive constructive responses to their writing, with feedback explicitly directed at improving the quality of their writing;
7. Students revise formal documents as part of the process of writing;
8. A significant portion (at least 50%) of the course grade depends on the quality and content of written assignments, which teachers evaluate according to explicit criteria.
The statement offers ideas for a range of writing tasks and types. The statement also suggests a maximum class size of 20 and total load cap of 100 students for teachers of a significant writing program.