Success and self-advocacy in college, work, and life depends upon communicating and expressing ideas effectively through writing. Employers cite skills related to writing as essential for their employees, including making clear and persuasive arguments, writing in different genres, and thinking critically and creatively about solutions (Burning Glass Technologies, 2015). In fact, at least 82% of employers have deemed effective written communication to be one of the most important factors in their hiring decisions (Hart Research Associates, 2015).
Yet U.S. public school graduates are not being prepared adequately for the writing demands of college or the workplace. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Writing indicates that there is a widespread and inequitable access issue, with only 27% of public high school seniors scoring as proficient in writing and fewer than 15% of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students scoring at the proficient level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). To put this more simply, 73% of public high school graduates are entering college and the workforce without the skills they need to be successful.
How does Quill’s AI work?
Click the arrow below to watch a video containing a step-by-step walkthrough of the student and teacher experience in Quill.
Quill.org also just released Reading for Evidence, which helps 8-12th grade students improve comprehension and learn how to support claims with evidence from the text. It pushes students to closely read, synthesize evidence, and respond with specific evidence, distinguishing it from a standard grammar-checking tool. The feedback also asks students to identify when their writing does not reflect the grammar and syntax conventions of white mainstream English. Unlike many educational tools, the responses generated from Quill’s AI and the interface design are not punitive, and many writing educators find prescriptivist approaches to teaching these conventions essential and effective when also accompanied by instruction that empowers students to use their own cultural language practices and navigate linguistic differences.
Quill.org has been gaining popularity, and despite its relative newness, recent data from the Center for Educational Market Dynamics reports that within the crowded market of supplemental curricular offerings, Quill is already the 4th most widely used nonprofit supplemental resource in high school English Language Arts courses. They currently hold 2.1% of the market share for secondary schools, trailing closely behind well-known supplemental tools such as Khan Academy (5.2%), CommonLit (3.6%), and College Board’s SpringBoard (2.5%), the latter of which has partnered with Quill.org to provide opportunities for students to practice their sentence construction skills.
Considering their market share, it shouldn’t be surprising that teachers find Quill.org to be a valuable tool in the classroom. Intentional Futures (iF), a Seattle-based social impact consultancy, interviewed teachers and students* who use Quill.org to learn about their experiences. One AP Human Geography teacher in Texas said of his students, “I have to teach them thinking skills and to have a global mindset, then translate that into writing. Quill does a good job of putting that focus on evidence and the writing structure. Their writing is definitely improving and it’s easy for them to improve it.” The teacher continued, saying that these positive writing outcomes led to increased confidence in his students’ ability to write in various settings and that his students were excited about writing with Quill, often asking for more lessons.
The students iF spoke with shared similarly positive sentiments. One 9th-grade student from Michigan shared that what she loves most about Quill is the instant feedback she receives on her submissions and that her overall writing experience is better than it was without Quill. She explained, “When relying on a teacher, I’d have to wait to get feedback until after I’m done with most of the writing since the teacher has to check on other students, too.” Another student noted how intuitive using Quill was, saying, “It’s really easy to work with! Everything is very simple and easy to figure out.” She also appreciated that she could see the correct answer after she completed an assignment.
Across the board, the students and teachers iF spoke with couldn’t imagine going back to writing instruction without Quill.org. In the future, Quill.org intends to continue leveraging recent advances in AI to develop more complex and innovative literacy tools. Quill.org is now incorporating technology from GPT-3 and ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, to enable students to receive feedback on more complex writing assignments. As AI progresses, Quill.org aims to bring their technology to millions of students and teachers and ultimately hopes to support more than 10 million low-income students per year. We know we can count on more to come from this determined group of dreamers on a mission to help all students become strong writers and critical thinkers.
*To create a safe environment and promote authentic engagement, iF guaranteed that interview participants would remain unidentifiable. Therefore, the names of the students and teachers quoted herein have been omitted.
A Note from the Foundation:
Over the past three years, students, teachers, administrators, families, and local communities who depend on reliable, high-quality public education have experienced profound disruptions and challenges. Headlines about the potentially “catastrophic” teacher shortage, “unprecedented” learning loss, and growing racial and economic disparity paint a bleak picture. While the pandemic certainly highlighted and exacerbated problems, inequitable access to education has long been a concern. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues to award grants to and partner with various mission-driven organizations with the goal of improving outcomes within U.S. education, especially for Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds; however, the Gates Foundation’s U.S. Programs K-12 team has recently decided to focus our efforts on transforming math outcomes in US K-12 over the next decade. This shift does not reflect on our former reading- and writing-focused nonprofit grantees, including Quill.org, CommonLit, and many others.
These grantees have made impressive gains toward their equity-focused missions. They are standouts in the ELA and writing space, offering opportunities for students to practice writing without the typically overwhelming amount of teacher time required to provide meaningful feedback on that writing. Even though the Gates Foundation’s strategy has shifted away from reading and writing, we know both are critical to the success of all students. We hope that others in the philanthropic community can now step in to continue to support these grantees as they build out their capabilities and move the needle on writing instruction.