She found it stultifying and believes she developed her writing skill in spite of such lessons, not because of them.But she was struggling with how to get started and what exactly she wanted to say.“What voice in my head? “I don’t have one.”Lyse needed a sense of “ownership” over her writing, Ms. And 40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to complete successfully a college-level English composition class, according to the company’s data.Poor writing is nothing new, nor is concern about it.More than half of first-year students at Harvard failed an entrance exam in writing — in 1874.But the Common Core State Standards, now in use in more than two-thirds of the states, were supposed to change all this.If the student didn’t learn how to correct pronoun disagreement and missing conjunctions, by high school he could be writing phrases like this one: “Well Machines are good but they take people jobs like if they don’t know how to use it they get fired.” That was a real submission on the essay section of the ACT.“It all starts with a sentence,” Dr. Focusing on the fundamentals of grammar is one approach to teaching writing. Many educators are concerned less with sentence-level mechanics than with helping students draw inspiration from their own lives and from literature.Thirty miles away at Nassau Community College, Meredith Wanzer, a high school teacher and instructor with the Long Island Writing Project, was running a weeklong workshop attended by six teenage girls.“We need massive teacher education.”One of the largest efforts is the National Writing Project, whose nearly 200 branches train more than 100,000 teachers each summer.The organization was founded in 1974, at the height of the process-oriented era.She was planning to apply to New York University, Columbia and Stony Brook University and already had an idea of the story she would tell in her Common Application essay. Wanzer encounters juniors and seniors whose essays are filled with incomplete sentences — not an uncommon occurrence — she limits the time she spends covering dull topics like subject-verb agreement.It would have something to do, she thought, with her family’s emigration from Haiti following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island. “You hope that by exposing them to great writing, they’ll start to hear what’s going on.”•Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress.