National Writing Project

History of NWP

NWP began in 1974 in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, where James Gray and his colleagues established a university-based program for K–16 teachers called the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP).

Gray, a teacher educator and former high school English teacher, was motivated to create a different form of professional development for teachers, one that made central the knowledge, leadership, and best practices of effective teachers, and that promoted the sharing of that knowledge with other teachers.

In partnership with Bay Area school districts, BAWP created a range of professional development services for teachers and schools interested in improving the teaching of writing and the use of writing as a learning tool across the curriculum. The structure of this first writing project site’s programs formed the basis of NWP’s “teachers-teaching-teachers” model of professional development.

By 1976, the NWP had grown to 14 sites in six states. Over the next 15 years, the network continued to grow, with funding for writing project sites made possible by foundation grants and matching funds from local sources. In 1991 NWP was authorized as a federal education program, allowing the network to expand to previously underserved areas.

Today, with its core grant from the U.S. Department of Education, supplemented by local, state, and private funds, the NWP comprises nearly 200 sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A goal of the NWP is to place a writing project site within reach of every teacher in the nation.

NWP Historical Resources

Teachers at the Center: A Memoir of the Early Years of the National Writing Project

In NWP founder James Gray's memoir, he looks back on the early years, describing the mentors who influenced him, how he refined the model, and the difficulties he overcame to gain widespread support for the project. More ›

The National Writing Project: Commitment and Competence

One important factor in the NWP's longevity is the complementary role played by foundations, as Ann Lieberman traces in her chapter from Reconnecting Education and Foundations: Turning Good Intentions into Educational Capital. More ›

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