National Writing Project

New Information About Catalog of School Reform Models

By: NWP Staff
Date: October 2004

Summary: Some writing project site directors have recently asked about a change in the Catalog of School Reform Models. For the 2004 update, catalog developers made a decision to eliminate all programs with a single-subject focus (particularly those addressing reading or literacy), and therefore the writing project is no longer eligible for inclusion. NWP remains a program of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement and is fully funded for 2004-2005. As the catalog has never been a list of programs approved for use with CSR funds, schools and districts with such funding are still free to partner with writing project sites in their school reform efforts.


Information for NWP Site Directors about Changes in the Catalog of School Reform Models Connected to the Federal Comprehensive School Reform Program

What is the Catalog of School Reform Models?
The Catalog of School Reform Models was developed in 1998 as a support to schools interested in comprehensive school reform generally and in effective use of federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD, now called CSR*) funding in particular. Developed and hosted by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) and the National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform (NCCSR), the catalog identifies, describes, and provides access to school reform programs that are comprehensive in nature and can demonstrate empirically supported positive impact. While it was never conceived of as a list of programs approved for use with CSR (or any other federal) funds, the catalog has been immensely influential as a source of information and referral for local school authorities with such funding. The NWP was included in the first Catalog of School Reform Models in 1998 and again in the second edition in 2002.

What has changed about the catalog?
In 2003, NWREL determined that it was time to update the catalog again. In doing so, they determined that programs with a focus in a single subject area would not be included. Even more to the point of NWP's work, initiatives with a particular emphasis on literacy were eliminated. Thus NWP is no longer eligible for inclusion and, for that reason alone, is not listed.

What does this mean about how NWP is regarded, both by the federal government and locally?
NWP's elimination from the catalog is a policy decision regarding the nature of the catalog itself and in no way reflects any judgment about the quality of our work or the esteem in which it is held. To the contrary, the writing project model includes all of the elements of effective professional development sought by CSR and validated by federal analyses of data from multiple sources such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and our work has an extensive and growing record of research results demonstrating its impact. The U.S. Department of Education has funded the NWP since 1991 and continues to do so. In this regard, it is important to remember that inclusion in the Catalog of School Reform Models has never been and is not now any sort of gatekeeper to receipt of federal CSR funds. Local districts and schools are free to use such funds as they determine to be appropriate to their needs, interests, and contexts. As the catalog website states: " It is important to note that the catalog is not a list of models `approved' by NWREL, NCCSR, or the U.S. Department of Education for the Comprehensive School Reform program or any other federally funded program. No such list exists."

How might site directors interact with local educators and policymakers regarding this change?
Based on the information provided above, we suggest pointing out that NWP is as effective as it has always been. It is as effective as it was in 1998 and in 2002 when it was included in the catalog. Its exclusion is due to changes in the definition of the catalog, not to changes in NWP or opinions of it. The writing project does embody the essential elements of best practice and has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate its impact. In the final analysis, the catalog itself should not be understood to be an authorizing entity regarding the use of federal CSR funds.

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