MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — National studies show our kids are flunking when it comes to a basic skill — being able to write.

Social media, especially texting, is getting much of the blame. Moreover, it comes at a time when both the ACT and SAT college admissions tests have added writing sections.

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In response, Minnetonka High School is attacking the writing problem with a unique program.

Saving The Essay

At Minnetonka High’s Writing Center, an entire 10th grade English class can get help with their essays. Both teachers and student coaches offer suggestions to those in need of help.

Student Nick McGannon says the center helps with everything from structuring essays to the basics, which he and others admit have been corrupted by texting and social media.

“When you’re texting it’s like you just shorten all your words…you write the wrong things,” McGannon said. “In essays, I have just like spelled words wrong, because I just don’t know how to spell them.”

The center, McGannon says, is helping him to write formally.

Teachers in every class – from science to math — take students to the writing center. Moreover, teachers often bring in the entire class, so students can get help with the written portions of presentations.

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Writing With Purpose

The effects of texting and social media aren’t all bad. Studies show those outlets are helping kids write more. What they are writing on them, however, isn’t what one finds in an academic paper.

“That writing is…stream of consciousness writing,” said Maggie Shea, the writing center’s director.

And while that kind of writing works for communicating with friends, it’s not what works in the classroom or on a college admissions essay or job application.

“[The writing center helps] students tailor their writing for a specific purpose,” Shea said.

The center also provides one-on-one help before and after school. It’s help English teacher Jordan Cushing says she could never provide to all 32 of her students.

“Some students work better when they are one-on-one or in a small group, and this place offers all of those options,” she said.

While almost all colleges have writing centers, Minnetonka High School is one of the few local high schools to have one.

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The center is funded through the Minnetonka Schools Foundation, which is a public-private initiative that funds programs for Minnetonka schools.

Esme Murphy