First off, I don't like systems of incentives, but that's another topic for another day.
But, secondly, this article points out that reading skills are stressed in schools, but writing skills aren't. As such, students are often much further along with their reading than their writing.
I don't believe that standards in my generation and younger are declining; in fact, I believe it to be quite the opposits.
But it is true that schools have been failing students for a while, when it comes to teaching and honing writing skills. I remember being told how important reading was; not so much was writing emphasized. Writing for young people should definitely be encouraged and helped.
Theories on teaching composition and writing are pretty weird, and need some revision. English teachers set up how they want essays to go, laying out everything it should include, even what order sentences should go in (concrete detail, commentary, commentary, anyone?). As a student, this was really frustrating to me. For me, and I'm sure many other students, this approach was much more of a hindrance than a help.
Writing is a craft and a skill that is largely self-taught. A lot of what we learn about good writing is through reading good writing, and attempting to emulate it. Good writing is the result of practice.
Writing and practice should be emphasized, but it should be more exploratory and less compulsory.