National Writing Project

NWP Conducts Congressional Briefing On High-Quality Professional Development

National Writing Project Joins Carnegie Foundation Scholar and Senator Jack Reed (RI) to Stress the Importance of Quality Professional Development

For Immediate Release


WASHINGTON, D.C., January 24, 2008—Concrete strategies and federal policies to end the daunting rate of teacher attrition took center stage at today's Capitol Hill briefing hosted by the National Writing Project (NWP), a teacher professional development organization dedicated to improving writing and learning in the nation's schools. Carnegie Foundation senior scholar Ann Lieberman and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined the NWP to discuss exactly what it takes to retain teachers and improve student achievement.

Paul LeMahieu, NWP Director of Research and Evaluation, presented results from NWP's Legacy Study, which documents 30 years of teacher participation in the writing project and reveals that 98% of writing project teachers remain in education throughout their careers. Moreover, a second set of studies examining student writing in the classrooms of NWP teachers demonstrates that these students' writing outpaced that of students in the classrooms of teachers who had not participated in the writing project.

The Legacy Study shows that the NWP model of professional development has a major influence on teachers deciding to stay in the field of education.

"The Legacy Study shows that the NWP model of professional development has a major influence on teachers deciding to stay in the field of education, and on the ways in which they can contribute to education," said National Writing Project Executive Director Sharon J. Washington. "The program also has a major impact on student writing achievement in all kinds of settings—urban, rural and suburban."

Ann Lieberman, senior scholar with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, outlined the following essential features of "high-quality" professional development:

  • Actively involving teachers in learning.
  • Providing opportunities for teachers to teach each other what they know.
  • Making provisions for teachers to become learners as well as teachers.
  • Building community and collaboration.
  • Supporting the conditions for teachers to become leaders of other teachers.
  • Accommodating differences in length of experience.
  • Enriching professional development by including the study and critique of research and other literature.
  • Ensuring that professional development is long-term, rather than sporadic and short-term.

From her extensive research on teacher leadership, Lieberman also demonstrated why and how investing in leadership can engage teachers in a long-term commitment to education, while improving student outcomes.

Senator Reed, the closing speaker at today's event, introduced legislation earlier this year—the School Improvement through Teacher Quality Act (S. 1979)—to amend the No Child Left Behind Act and create a new $500-million, formula-based program to help schools provide teachers with high-quality induction, mentoring, and professional development.

"Investing in our teachers is the single most important step we can take to increase student achievement and turn around struggling schools," said Senator Reed, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "High-quality professional development, similar to the National Writing Project model, is collaborative, job-embedded, and data driven. I will continue working to ensure that our teachers have the resources, skills, and training they need to be effective in the classroom."

The panel was moderated by National Writing Project Executive Director Emeritus Richard Sterling and, in addition to Lieberman and LeMahieu, included Dina Sechio DeCristofaro, a reading specialist at Scituate Middle School in Rhode Island, and Wilma Ortiz, a teacher of English language learners at Amherst Middle School in Massachusetts.


The National Writing Project is the most significant coordinated effort to improve writing in America. NWP sites, located on nearly 200 university and college campuses, serve more than 135,000 educators annually. NWP continues to add new sites each year with the goal of placing the writing project within reach of every teacher in America. Through its professional development model, NWP develops the leadership, programs, and research needed for teachers to help students become successful writers and learners. For more information, visit

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