National Writing Project

Summer Institute by the Numbers

By: Art Peterson
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 6, No. 3
Date: May-June 2001

Summary: How many people have participated in invitational summer institutes since the first institute in 1974? Find out in this lively compendium of NWP statistics.


At NWP, we like to collect numbers because numbers are one measure by which we can demonstrate our impact on what is going on in literacy education today.

We know, for instance, that in summer 2000, 167 writing project summer institutes served an average of 16 participants each, for an estimated total of 2,672 summer fellows.

Most of these participants (1,320) were middle and high school teachers, but many others (1,095) taught elementary school. The remainder--10% of the total--were college teachers or school administrators.

Not surprisingly the largest number of these participants--2,116--taught language arts at least part of the day. But over 400 of those who participated worked in content areas other than English.

Rural, urban, small city, and suburban communities were represented in about equal numbers--1/4 in each category.

More than 90% of the participants taught students who do not speak English as their first language.

About 93% of the participants teach some students of color, and, of all the students instructed by writing project fellows, 41% were students of color.

While 65% of U.S. teachers have more than 10 years of experience, in this regard, last year's summer institutes were considerably more heterogeneous: 37% of the teachers had more than 10 years of experience, but 63% had fewer years of teaching experience.

This data allows us to extrapolate further numbers. For instance, if we calculate that each summer institute participant consumed an average of two cups of coffee a day (a low-ball number), and if the average summer institute met four days a week for five weeks, we estimate that at last summer's invitational institutes, participants drank a minimum of 106,880 cups of coffee.

Finally, since 1974, more than 2 million people have participated in writing project programs. How many cups of coffee is that? You do the math.

About the Author ART PETERSON is an editor for the National Writing Project.

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