This study was a yearlong investigation over writing instruction with one class of ninth grade students in an urban, “underperforming” high school. Using qualitative methods with embedded quantitative features, findings revealed students benefited little from the writing instruction they received. In fact, most students showed virtually no growth on multiple measures of writing performance and only minimal improvement in their attitudes toward writing. Further, a university partnership with the school had little impact on the instructional practices of the classroom teacher. The implications of this study paint a discouraging picture for students in “underperforming” high schools and point to a need for writing reform predicated on praxis and evidence-based methods for writing instruction in both teacher preparation programs and K-12 school contexts.