National Writing Project

Director's Update

By: Richard Sterling
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 10, No. 2
Date: 2005

Summary: Executive Director Richard Sterling comments on the summer institutes, the recent national attention that the topic of writing has been receiving, and the growth of the NWP...


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

By the time you receive this issue of The Voice, summer institutes will be under way at writing project sites across the country. This is an exciting time of year, and I congratulate all of you who are taking time this summer to talk about your teaching practices and explore ways to help your students become better writers and learners. The National Writing Project has been bringing educators together for more than 30 years to do this important work. In recent years, summer institute participants have been able to share their writing with colleagues around the country through the E-Anthology. The isolation that once characterized teaching is indeed changing because of our national network.

Now is an especially opportune time to be focused on the craft and instruction of writing. The addition of a writing component to the SAT and ACT college entrance exams has put writing in the headlines. A new report from the National Commission on Writing states that two-thirds of salaried employees in the United States have to write at some level and that people who cannot write well are less likely to be hired. These findings are based on responses from 120 major companies. Like the new SAT and ACT, the report has generated a great deal of press attention. Paula Santonocito writes in the human resources publication HR Wire, “Technology has enabled more communication, true, but it has also made it glaringly obvious that many employees lack writing skills.”

As the demand for more and better writing instruction grows, the National Writing Project also grows—this year to 189 sites in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On April 7, more than 200 writing project teachers and site leaders from 40 states came to the NWP Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C., to talk to legislators about the impact their local writing project sites have on schools and on student achievement. Mark St. John, president of Inverness Research Associates, presented the latest evaluation data, including the fact that writing project teacher-consultants conducted 6,871 programs, worked in 2,967 schools, and served more than 100,000 educators during the 2003–04 school year. Participants spent 2.6 million hours in programs conducted by writing project sites last school year.

The second half of the spring meeting focused on our own professional development. On April 8, Jeffrey Wilhelm provided his insights about literacy in a digital age. Writing project teachers and directors then participated in a dozen roundtables, with topics ranging from high school reform to reading and writing in the content areas. It was a remarkable program, not unlike the one you are experiencing now in your summer institutes. When excellent, dedicated educators gather to learn from each other, everyone is elevated and inspired. For many, it is a reminder of why we chose to teach.

Richard Sterling
Executive Director

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