Gaston Caperton, a former two-term governor of West Virginia, is the eighth president of the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association founded in 1900 that consists of 5,000 of the nation's leading schools, colleges, and universities. Among its best-known programs are the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) and the SAT®.
Since his appointment in 1999, Caperton has transformed the College Board into a resolutely mission-driven, values-oriented organization that takes bold steps to connect greater numbers of students to college success and opportunity while raising educational standards. In his successful effort to expand equity within programs that foster academic excellence, he has more than doubled the size of the College Board's staff, modernized its management structure, and established collegeboard.com, the nation's predominant comprehensive Web site serving nearly 4 million students a year as they plan their paths to college.
Question: Have writing skills improved in the US?
Caperton: They have, and we did a survey of high schools across the country, and we found that over 60% of those schools were spending more time on writing because we’d put it on the SAT. Now, I happen to believe that writing is a crucial skill, and that we in this country have not focused on writing and we don’t write as well as we need to do it. It’s a very important part of self expression. A very important part of any job anybody has is to be able to, in writing, be able to explain or to answer or to put in words what they’re thinking or what they’re planning, and so… And also, the art of just communication is deeply, is greatly improved by writing, even oral communication is improved by the quality of writing. So, I think that we’ve done a great service to this country by putting writing on the SAT, and I think it’s getting much more of a focus, and I think that it’s important that the colleges and universities look at that writing not only as a matter of admissions but also as a diagnostic, to say, okay, this student is an outstanding student, but, boy, they just better learn how to write. They haven’t had… They just don’t know how to write well, so the diagnostic part of it is probably as important as any part of the writing.