I’ve often said that the National Writing Project is the best deal the government has ever made. When folks get frustrated about bridges to nowhere, they can gain some faith that hard-working and creative teachers are using government money to re-create classrooms, transform teaching, and improve students’ and teachers’ abilities to think, read, and write.
The Pebble-in-the-Pond Ripple Effect – You see, the money the federal government allots to fund the National Writing Project acts as a small pebble in the pond. The government throws it into the NWP pond and ripples spread to each of the 200 NWP sites around the nation. At those sites, federal monies are matched by state and local funds. The ripple-effect has only begun. Teachers at those 200 sites meet in projects: the Summer Institute, professional development projects for teachers at local schools, NWP projects for inner-city schools, for using technology to teach reading and writing, for English Language Learners, for writing across the curriculum, for rural schools — and these teachers are K-16. They come from universities, high school, middle schools, and elementary schools. Rarely do we find such collaborative efforts — that work! As a college instructor, I’ve implemented teaching strategies I’ve learned from middle school teachers at a Summer Institute and then adapted for the college classroom. And those ideas work.
These teachers go into the classroom and use the knowledge they’ve gained from NWP to lift up each student. The ripple effect reaches thousands of students each year. Multiply that by almost 40 years of NWP, and you still have not reached a clear assessment of the value because NWP offers each participant — teacher, administrator, student — the uncountable product: more creative, productive, and effective teaching and learning. Each classroom that a NWP teacher steps into becomes a site of educational transformation. That’s what I call one heck of a deal.