Targeted Problem Solving



A New York City Department of Education study found that 76% of eighth graders were not proficient in writing; the problem is particularly acute among low-income ESL students.


Quill is a free, personalized online learning tool that helps students build writing, grammar, and proofreading skills. We underwrote a research pilot program in three Icahn Charter School Network (ICS) schools to roll out the use of Quill’s newest feature: a sentence-combining tool.

Sentence combining is recognized as one of 11 highly-effective strategies for developing writing skills. In sentence combining, students take multiple ideas and combine them into a single sentence, which requires them to examine relationships between ideas, order those ideas, and express them logically and succinctly.

Quill is working with the ICS team to build a custom set of materials aligned with their curriculum as well as the Core Knowledge Curriculum. (The Core Knowledge Foundation has built a logical sequence to standardize the teaching of writing. There is no obvious sequence for writing instruction as there is for math in which, for example, a student must learn subtraction prior to learning long division.) Quill is creating new exercises and questions to align with both Ichan Charter School’s content and the Core Knowledge Curriculum.

Dr. Michael Hebert, a communications professor specializing in reading and writing instruction at the University of Nebraska, will be conducting the evaluation component of this pilot. Quill will also examine Regents writing scores to determine long-term results and expects to see a 10% increase in scores for students in the intervention group. There are 480 students in grades four through seven in the pilot group, with 240 of them receiving the intervention.