Starting in 2005 the College Board will revise the SAT to include the requirement for students to write a short essay. A "writing prompt" is already part of the graduation exams in several states and, while there is applause for adding this feature to the SAT, there are also people who believe it may actually hurt students writing skills. In his weekly online column on education, Jay Mathews presents the views of teachers and students on both sides of the issue.

I’m not a big fan of standardized tests of any kind since too many teachers are pressured to teach to the test instead of helping students explore different aspects of their subject in more creative ways. I never taught a subject that included writing essays (although we did some writing activities in my math classes), but the views of this professor seem to me to be one likely outcome of using standardized essays on standardized tests.

"If teachers are compelled to teach to the test of the short, timed essay, they won’t reflect writing as real writers practice it in the real world: varied in terms of purpose, audience and situation," said Douglas D. Hesse, an English professor and director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Illinois State University in Normal.

But this teacher may have a point as well – especially for anyone who plans on writing a blog. :-)

"Short essays are the lifeblood of business," said Rich Ingalls, who teaches at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. "Students who learn how to compose a short message that both informs and explains, while at the same time is persuasive, will be a success after graduating from college."