National Writing Project

Director's Update

By: Richard Sterling
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 9, No. 2
Date: 2004

Summary: NWP Executive Director Richard Sterling shares his thoughts on recent developments and the future of the National Writing Project in this quarterly column.


Dear colleagues and friends,

I want to thank and congratulate all of the writing project site leaders and teacher-consultants (and a few of their students!) who helped to make the 2004 National Writing Project Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C., another tremendous success. More than 175 people from 36 states attended, and many more of you participated by faxing and emailing your representatives, encouraging their support for the NWP.

At Thursday's kickoff to the meeting in the Capitol's Mansfield Room, we were honored to be addressed directly by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), Senator John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV), and Representative Dale Kildee (D-MI). From all of our special guests, we received support for NWP's goals and affirmation of the importance of the teaching of writing and of high-quality professional development for teachers.

Laura Stokes, senior researcher for Inverness Research Associates, also spoke and reminded us of one reason why our network continues to thrive as a vehicle for professional development: NWP is a model infrastructure that enables local writing project sites to build capacity to work with more teachers and schools. As we explain our work to others, Laura noted, we can point to the fact that in 2003, writing project sites conducted more than 6,400 programs and served over 130,000 teachers.

This year's spring meeting also gave us the opportunity to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on the Brown v. Board of Education case through the keynote address by award-winning journalist Samuel Yette and through students' research and writing. District of Columbia Area Writing Project Teacher-Consultant Liz Davis' students conducted extensive research on the decision and, in particular, the important role their school, John Philip Sousa Middle School, played at the time. Both Yette's address and the students' work made real the significance of the 50-year-old decision. For more details, click here.

By the time you receive this edition of The Voice, invitational summer institutes will be underway at writing project sites across the country. I want to extend a warm welcome to those teachers who are joining writing project colleagues in our professional learning community this summer. It is a thrill to know that in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia teachers—kindergarten through university—are engaged in intensive programs to improve the teaching of writing and thus student learning in schools across America.

Of course, one of the most inspiring aspects of any NWP gathering—whether a national spring meeting or a summer institute—is the exchange of ideas. In recent columns, I have been inviting readers to send me their ideas to help shape the future of NWP. To those of you who have already responded, I thank you. Keep writing! Your ideas and reflections are helping to shape the next phase of our work. Again, you can call me at the NWP office or email me. But I also look forward to speaking with many of you—including our newest colleagues—in person at future writing project events and to read about your work in our own and other publications. Through our work and our research, we know that we have much to contribute to the nation's agenda to improve education for all students. Together we are making a difference in the lives of young people.

Richard Sterling
Executive Director

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