National Writing Project

About Urban Sites Network

Established in 1988, the Urban Sites Network (USN) connected teachers and writing project leaders nationwide to work on improving the teaching and learning of urban children. USN focused on teacher inquiry and professional development, while encouraging teachers to share promising classroom practices with each other through conferences, retreats, online forums, and minigrant programs.


  • To strengthen urban writing projects sites, particularly new and rebuilding sites, in order to tackle the critical concerns of urban schools
  • To grow, support, and sustain diverse teacher leadership pools in urban writing project sites and urban schools in general
  • To increase awareness of the ways that teaching and learning are inseparably linked to race, class, gender, language, culture, and social justice
  • To identify and analyze the significance of urban contexts on student achievement and the achievement gap
  • To stem the tide of urban teacher attrition by supporting the unique needs of new teachers in urban schools.


Supported by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, USN completed an initial three-year project in 1994 to create inquiry groups at NWP sites in eleven cities. This project successfully evolved its own philosophy and techniques for teacher inquiry, paying special attention to issues of race and ethnicity, connections to school reform, and relationships between universities and schools based on research issues.

In addition, the project actively encouraged leadership by teachers of color at all levels of participation and created opportunities for USN teachers to communicate across sites. Following this three-year initiative, urban sites teachers completed a first volume of inquiry studies that was published in a book, Cityscapes: Eight Views from the Urban Classroom.

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