National Writing Project

Assessing the Long-term Impact of a Professional Support Community for Teachers: The Case of the National Writing Project

Date: January 25, 2008

Summary: At a congressional briefing, Paul LeMahieu, NWP director of research and evaluation, presented results from NWP's Legacy Study, which documents 30 years of teacher participation in the NWP, and the Local Site Research Initiative, which examines student writing in the classrooms of NWP teachers.

 

At a congressional briefing on January 24, 2008, the National Writing Project joined Carnegie Foundation Scholar Ann Lieberman and Senator Jack Reed (RI) to stress the importance of quality professional development.

Paul LeMahieu, NWP director of research and evaluation, presented Putting the Quality into Professional Development: Data from NWP Research, which shows the results of two significant studies on the NWP's impact.

NWP's Legacy Study, which documents 30 years of teacher participation in the writing project, reveals that participation in the NWP helps keep teachers in the profession: 98 percent of writing project teachers remain in education throughout their careers. While the median number of teaching years for public school teachers is 14 years, the median number of teaching years for NWP summer institute participants is 21 years. Also, 72 percent of NWP summer institute participants continue to work in education after retirement.

Teacher Leadership

Moreover, many writing project teachers take on leadership positions, LeMahieu said. For example, more than 1,250 of the 41,000 teachers who participated in summer institutes between 1974 and 2006 have become principles, and 340 have become executive leaders in education.

LeMahieu noted that NWP supports teachers with a professional development community that continually challenges them to improve their teaching. In fact, according to the Legacy Study, 90.6 percent of summer institute participants say that their experience with the writing project has influenced their work; 90.9 percent said the knowledge and skills they developed with the writing project have informed their work; and 91.9% said the attitudes and values of the writing project have influenced their work.

Improving Student Writing

The writing project's influence has had a positive impact on student achievement, said LeMahieu. NWP's Local Site Research Initiaitive, a series 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.

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