Guidelines for Writing Contests

National Council of Teachers of English

Reaffirmed by the NCTE Executive Committee, November 2012

The National Council of Teachers of English believes that contests should primarily serve the needs of students and the goals of education; secondarily, a contest might serve other interests of the sponsoring organization. NCTE further believes that a legitimate object of contests is the encouragement of excellence; but competition for honors should not overshadow the purpose of developing the abilities of all potential entrants.

The Council urges, moreover, that the standards listed below be observed in all contests involving English language arts skills.

  1. Instructions to potential entrants should be clearly stated.
  2. Criteria on which entries will be judged should be described to all concerned, including students. If several criteria are differentially weighted, this information should be given.
  3. Qualifications of the judges should be stated.
  4. Contests that focus on controversial issues should not exclude exploration of any side of the issue.
  5. Contest participation should be voluntary; no student should be required to prepare a potential entry.

The National Council of Teachers of English urges contest sponsors to observe these guidelines and encourages teachers and students to participate only in those contests which meet the standards set forth above.