National Writing Project

Director's Update

By: Richard Sterling
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 6, No. 2
Date: March-April 2001

Summary: An update from Executive Director Richard Sterling.


Dear Colleagues and Friends:

I am writing this letter as Mary Ann Smith, Judy Buchanan, and I set out for Washington, D.C., and our first meeting with the U.S. Department of Education program officers under Secretary Rod Paige. Through this meeting, we hope to learn much about the new policies and priorities of the department and to reinforce the importance of the National Writing Project in improving learning in our schools. While we are in Washington, we also hope to meet with education committee staff to keep them informed of our work. These visits are particularly important at the beginning of a new Congress, and even more so this year as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the bill that funds all education activity for schools, is on a fast track for reauthorization under the new administration of President Bush.

This first visit will also enable us to determine what we will need to do when you yourselves travel to the capital for the NWP Spring Meeting, April 5–6. In addition to giving all of us the opportunity to hear from Ron Wolk, the founding editor and leading education journalist of Education Week, the Spring Meeting this year is of enormous importance. As I said in this column last issue, although we worked very hard to get co-sponsors for the NWP bill last year, we have to redo the work this year because the ESEA failed to pass. So we'll be calling and emailing site leaders to ask you to get your representatives to sign on again. This effort is essential for the continued funding of the National Writing Project.

And as we begin our work this year, a look at this issue of The Voice will remind us of the broad scope of that work. This issue contains news items that show the growing power of the NWP network, and, in particular, of the growing networks within the project. Also in this issue, we have the pleasure of welcoming eight new sites to our network. They are: Sun Belt Writing Project (Alabama), UC Merced Writing Project (California), Florida Gulf Coast Writing Project, Georgia Southern Writing Project, Meadow Brook Writing Project (Michigan), Live Oak Writing Project (Mississippi), Hudson Valley Writing Project (New York), and Upstate Writing Project (South Carolina). Yet another news piece covers NWP's launch of three new radio programs to add to our Rural Voices Radio series.

The issue's feature articles reflect the growth of our project and simultaneously remind us of our aspirations for the writing project in the future. One feature article deals with partnerships. Partnerships have become an important trend in the NWP, and many sites are now involved in significant partnerships with schools, sometimes working with many faculty in a single school or several schools in a district, and often spanning one, two, or even three years of time. Another piece from the Maryland Writing Project talks about their newest outreach efforts. Both of these stories, as well as others, point out the ways in which writing projects adapt and extend their reach in response to the local education needs of teachers.

And that thought brings me back to Washington, D.C., and the work we have ahead of us. It will be difficult but important work. We must educate Congress about the success of the writing project if we are to maintain our federal support and ensure our future as a thriving national network.

Richard Sterling

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