National Writing Project

Work of Urban Sites Network Evident at 2003 Conference

By: Marci Resnick
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 8, No. 4
Date: Fall 2003

Summary: The NWP Urban Sites Conference is the Urban Sites Network's premier tool for disseminating urban teachers' work. Learn about the mission and objectives of this NWP network and the value of its annual conference.


This year's NWP Urban Sites Conference was hosted by the South Coast Writing Project in Santa Barbara, California. Over 200 writing project teacher-consultants and directors gathered for the weekend. Some teachers came from the largest urban school districts like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles; other teachers came from smaller urban districts like Tulsa, Oklahoma; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Savannah, Georgia. What brought them all together is the shared commitment to improving the teaching of writing and learning for urban students—the Urban Sites Network's mission. Part of what drives the work of this network is the understanding that to truly pay attention to the teaching of writing and literacy in urban schools, attention must also be paid to issues related to equity, diversity, and language.

The Urban Sites Network (USN), established in 1988, works to promote site development among member sites; build community and colleagueship among teacher-leaders from urban school districts, large and small; and sponsor programs of national interest. USN takes a special interest in teacher inquiry and professional development and supports the sharing of promising classroom practices for the teaching of writing through online discussion forums, conferences and retreats, and minigrant programs, all of which broaden the fund of teacher knowledge and expand the dissemination of urban teacher research.

Also as a part of its mission, the network brings together teachers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives from across its member sites to:

  • strengthen urban writing project sites, particularly new and rebuilding urban sites, in order to increase their capacity to tackle the critical concerns of urban schools and writing project sites
  • increase, support, and sustain diverse teacher leadership pools in urban writing project sites and more broadly in urban schools
  • increase awareness of the inextricable links among teaching and learning, race, class, gender, language, culture, and social justice
  • identify, analyze, and interrogate the implications of urban contexts for student achievement, the achievement gap, and the complex understandings on which classroom teaching is built
  • stem the tide of urban teacher attrition by supporting the unique needs of new teachers in urban schools.

The Urban Sites Conference, held each spring, is the network's major event. It gives teachers the opportunity to make visible the work they do while at the same time providing a way for teachers to get insights from others engaged in similar work. This year's conference theme, "Between the Mountains and the Sea: Literacy and Justice for All?" provided a powerful lens through which this work could be shared, and the conference events included keynote speaker Carole Edelsky on the topics of theory, politics, and hope; 40 sessions of exciting and informative workshops led by teacher-consultants and directors from across the country; visits to local schools; writing tours; a special Urban Sites Book Club meeting; and student writing and performances.

The Urban Sites Network invites you to join us for next year's conference, themed "Urban Literacy and the Challenge of Reform" from April 30–May 1, 2004, in Philadelphia. In the coming months, please check the NWP website for updates.

About the Author Marci Resnick is an associate director of the National Writing Project, the chair of the Urban Sites Network, and the coordinator of the New-Teacher Initiative.

See the related article, Edelsky Talk Brings Urban Sites Conference Theme Alive, by Art Peterson.

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