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Commentary: “Grammar/Usage: I am Still Waiting”

Teacher/ columnist and education activist Donna Garner

“Grammar/Usage: I am Still Waiting”

by Donna Garner


I have been waiting for six years for someone in the media to take the time to applaud the ambitious efforts of the College Board in 2006 to try to move our nation’s schools back to the teaching of English grammar and usage.  


If reporters say anything at all about the way the 2006 SAT is organized, they never seem to mention the fact that the Writing section has two sub-scores, one of which tests students’ English grammar and usage knowledge. 


In fact, that sub-score (49 multiple-choice grammar and usage questions) is worth 70% of the Writing score; the essay only counts 30%.


The College Board took one more very ambitious step when it conducted and then published its research report on June 17, 2008 ( 



This report proves that the best predictor of college success for freshmen is how well students did on the SAT Writing section. (The Writing score was even a better predictor than the Math or Critical Reading scores.)


Since 70% of the Writing score comes from grammar and usage, then obviously the best predictor of college success is how well students know their English grammar and usage.


According to two members of our own family, when Texas gave the first round of new English / Language Arts / Reading tests (STAAR/End-of-Course) in Grades 7 and 9 in March 2012, there were approximately 48 grammar/usage questions on the tests.  The grammar/usage (including capitalization, punctuation, and spelling examples) were tested in the context of sentences and paragraphs and not as isolated entities.


The Texas Education Agency intends to make sure that those 48 grammar/usage questions are a big percentage in each student’s final score because the newly adopted ELAR curriculum standards (adopted in May 2008) stress correct writing skills.  The STAAR/EOC’s are built upon the new TEKS standards.


As Texas teachers become more proficient at teaching correct English grammar/usage and at holding their students accountable in the classroom for correct English skills, our Texas students will assuredly begin to see their SAT scores climb.


To read the article that I wrote after discussing the first round ever of the STAAR/EOC’s (ELAR) with our two family members, please go to the following article – “STAAR-EOC Tests: Picking Alpha’s and Beta’s Brain” – 3.29.12:—-picking/View.aspx



Donna Garner

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