Thursday, February 11, 2010

Save the Writing Project

I'd like to call your attention to a pressing national matter, pressing especially to anyone who writes, cares about writing, teaches writing, or cares about the teaching of writing--which I imagine defines many readers of this blog! Every summer, K-12 teachers from disciplines across the educational spectrum participate in 5 week workshops (called Summer Institutes) sponsored by the National Writing Project. The workshops allow the teachers to discover themselves as writers; to gain a new, or newly recharged, love for writing; and to learn about new ways to use writing in their curriculum. It's finally about improving the quality of writing instruction in our country by touching the people who can most readily bring about change: the teachers themselves. The model has proven to be spectacularly successful, based not only on student test scores but also overwhelming anecdotal evidence from teachers who have taken the Summer Institute and had their eyes opened. Teachers who complete the Summer Institute not only make more effective classroom teachers but are certified to conduct in-service workshops throughout the school year in their local districts. In that way, the good practices they are exposed to in the Summer Institute are transmitted to scores of additional teachers.

Unfortunately, the existence of the NWP is now threatened by different budget discussions going on in Washington. There is talk about consolidating funding for the Writing Project with five other literacy organizations under a new competitive program that states would have to apply to. By no means would all states apply to the program, by no means would all those who apply get funding, and by no means would the states that get funding necessarily use the money to allow their local writing projects to keep operating. In short, the National Writing Project cannot exist under this new plan. It would be dead. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, the National Writing Project has been a national, federally-funded organization, with a clear administrative structure and deep, practical connections between individual local writing projects and the national organization. It has been a very efficient and responsible manager of taxpayer money. (I can't imagine a more worthwhile use of that money either.) It would be a shame now to punish the organization for its success because our government cannot figure out how to pay its bills. Please help save the Writing Project! It almost got cut 10 years ago, but a grassroots response converted Congress and kept the organization alive. If you can, copy the form letter below, modify it as you must, and send it along via email or snail mail to your U.S. senator or congressmen. (Click here to find the names of your U.S. senators and here for the name of your congressman.) For teachers and students and anyone who cares about writing, you can make a huge difference. Thanks.


I am writing to urge you to support the National Writing Project, one of oldest and most successful school reform programs in education, as it faces losing its federal funding.

The NWP, a proven, highly successful national infrastructure, is currently at risk as a result of the administration’s proposed strategy to consolidate it with five other literacy programs which would only offer funding to state agencies competing for it with new, unproven programs.

The National Writing Project has a thirty year program of success in improving literacy among students by profoundly supporting the professional development of their teachers.Specifically, direct funding for the National Writing Project supports:
1. The national goal of helping students graduate prepared for college and career-ready;
2. Tens of thousands of teachers prepared to serve as a professional development resource to their colleagues and local schools;
3. A national improvement and reform infrastructure with demonstrated practices that support the success of local writing projects sites in providing high-quality professional development to local schools.
4. National programs and initiatives that extent and strengthen the work of local sites and that support site leaders in enhancing their work and sharing knowledge across the network.

The National Writing Project accomplishes all of this because it is a highly developed and effective national infrastructure that includes broad reach, local usability and established quality. Without direct funding, the infrastructure of this crucial program is in jeopardy.

Thank you for your time and your support.



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