National Writing Project

Resource Topics

Policy and Reform - School Reform

Additional Resources

Book Review: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Change the World

September 2011
Amy Gonzalez
Game designer and Director of Game Research at the Institute For The Future, Jane McGonigal, argues that games can change the world for the better. Using theories from positive psychology, cognitive science, sociology, and philosophy, McGonigal connects how game playing can make us happier and more productive. More ›

Deborah Meier Strives to Give Education a Purpose—and Hope

September 2011
Tiffany Chiao
NWP's 2011 Annual Meeting will feature renowned educator Deborah Meier, who will share her insights about the purpose of education after a long career as a well-known educational reformer, writer, and activist. More ›

A Literacy Education for Our Times

English Journal, August 2011
Rick VanDeWeghe
Richard VanDeWeghe, director of the Denver Writing Project, discusses English teachers' attempts to engender a "capacity to understand other perspectives and cultures" in their students, a skill that's emphasized in the Common Core Standards. More ›

Book Review: Retracing the Journey: Teaching and Learning in an American High School

May 2011
Jane Frick
Prairie Lands Writing Project director Jane Frick finds Leila Christenbury's tribulations in a high school classroom instructive as she herself works with beginning teachers. More ›

Five Questions for Diane Ravitch on the State of Public Education Today

April 2011
Renowned education scholar Diane Ravitch is hosting #engchat, a weekly Twitter chat put on by the Philadelphia Writing Project's Meenoo Rami. Rami interviewed Ravitch to get her take on the current state of public education policy—and professional development for teachers. More ›

Writing Project Principles at the Heart of San Diego School

February 2011
Art Peterson
Teacher-consultants from the San Diego Area Writing Project have opened a charter school that emphasizes writing across the curriculum, teachers teaching teachers, and a commitment to equity and social justice. More ›

The Authors of Because Digital Writing Matters Discuss the Digital Directions of Writing

October 2010
The authors of NWP's Because Digital Writing Matters look at what educators, parents, and policymakers can do to help equip students with the technology-related communication skills they need to thrive in school and in the global workplace. More ›

Julie Johnson: The Evolution of a Model Writing Teacher in a Model Writing School

October 2010
Art Peterson
After entering the Columbus Area Writing Project summer institute unsure of her skills as a writing teacher, Julie Johnson achieves an NCTE Award, founds a Model Writing School, and creates a blog used by other writing teachers. More ›

Teacher Leaders Network Amplifies Teachers' Voices

August 2010
Art Peterson
Drawing on the expertise of some of the nation's most accomplished teachers, including some NWP teacher-consultants, the Teacher Leaders Network has elevated teachers' voices on policy issues and provided a vehicle for the sharing of best practices growing from experience. More ›

A Thousand Writers Writing: Seeking Change through the Radical Practice of Writing as a Way of Being

July 2010
Robert Yagelski
Robert Yagelski, director of the New York Capital District Writing Project, discusses the transformative power of writing as an act in and of itself as he reevaluates the traditional motivations for teaching writing in schools. Yagelski won the 2010 Janet Emig Award from NCTE for this article, given for exemplary scholarship in an article published in English Education. More ›

Demonstrating Teaching in a Lab Classroom

July 2010
Lisa Houk, a teacher-consultant with the Oakland (MI) Writing Project, details a structure in which "host" teachers provide opportunities for observation by "guest" teachers in a format that allows for preparation, facilitation, and debriefing. More ›

Teachers Are the Center of Education: Writing, Learning and Leading in the Digital Age

May 2010
Teachers Are the Center of Education is part of a series of reports highlighting the importance of teachers and the quality of their work. This report features eight Writing Project teachers by spotlighting their innovative use of digital tools for writing and learning. More ›

NWP Radio—Why School? A Conversation with Mike Rose

March 2010
With so many policy prescriptions pointing to alternatives to the model of public education, it is a good time to ask the question: Why School? Scholar and author Mike Rose responds to this and other questions at the heart of his new book in two episodes of NWP Radio. More ›

Book Review: Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us

February 2010
Tanya N. Baker
Reviewer Tanya Baker describes Mike Rose's book as a way toward restarting "a public conversation about the hopeful vision, the possibility, inherent in our nation's public schools." More ›

Adolescent Literacy Reports from Carnegie Corporation Detail Plan of Action

January 2010
Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success sets out a national agenda for fully supporting young learners and using evidence-based case studies to boost adolescent literacy rates. More ›

Book Review: Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

December 2009
Britton Gildersleeve
Matthew Crawford points out that education for the sake of education is no guarantee of the ability to make complex decisions well. Shop Class as Soulcraft examines key ideas about what counts as learning and what that means for students today. More ›

Teachers Are the Center of Education: Profiles of Eight Teachers

October 2009
Seth Mitchell, Maine Writing Project teacher-consultant, is one of eight teachers profiled in Teachers Are the Center of Education. The publication highlights "the importance of teachers and the quality of their work." More ›

Building Policy Platforms for Resilience

September 2009
Resiliency is a characteristic of individuals that allows them to adapt, persevere, and succeed despite adversity. But what sorts of approaches and policies would foster resiliency in institutions like schools? This brief from the KnowledgeWorks Foundation takes a look at platforms for resilience in policy. More ›

Mike Rose Finds Hope and Possibility in Public Education

July 2009
Tanya N. Baker
Mike Rose's books respond to the "rhetoric of decline" around public school, explore the work of teaching and learning across the country, and present new perspectives on what counts as intelligence. Listen to Rose discuss his thoughts in an interview with NWP's "For Your Bookshelf." More ›

What Data-Driven Instruction Should Really Look Like

June 2009
Kathie Marshall
Kathie Marshall argues that data-driven instruction should come from groups of teachers working together on research and using data to improve instruction—rather than having data monitored as a way of checking NCLB "compliance." More ›

Writing in the 21st Century: Writing between the Lines and Everywhere Else

April 2009
This report, one of a series from NCTE calling for support for 21st century writing instruction, concludes that 21st century literacy demands technological proficiency, collaborative problem solving skills, and an ability to work with multiple streams of information and multimedia texts. More ›

Best Practices for Adolescent ELLs

April 2009
Judith Rance-Roney
Judith Rance-Roney, a teacher with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, argues that the nation's ELL population is more heterogeneous than is generally acknowledged and that this diverse population will benefit from reforms such as a team-oriented faculty, extended learning time, and the monitoring of individual students' learning. More ›

Student-Driven Research

Educational Leadership, January 2009
Susan Yonezawa, Makeba Jones
Two researchers with the San Diego Writing Project report on a student-led research project in which a group of students design, conduct, and present research about their school with the object of initiating and supporting educational reform. More ›

Developing Communities of Practice in Schools

September 2008
The authors describe a successful teacher community of practice as one that is well designed and guided, usually developing one facet of instruction through joint work, supported by a proactive administrator and broad teacher leadership. More ›

On the Verge of Understanding: A District-Wide Look at Student Writing

April 2008
Kathleen Reddy-Butkovich
In this chapter from Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work, the author and colleagues from Michigan writing projects use an examination of student work to discover what it is that student writers are "on the verge of understanding." They apply these observations to arrive at some implications for teaching and learning in their school district. More ›

Investing in the Improvement of Education: Lessons to be Learned from the National Writing Project

December 2008
Laura Stokes, Mark St. John
The authors argue that educational progress in the United States has been limited because improvement has been treated as "expenditure, not investment." The NWP, however, provides a model that creates a "robust, cost-efficient infrastructure for education improvement." More ›

Growing Reflective Practitioners

January 2008
Grace Hall McEntee
McEntee documents how she and former Boston Writing Project director Joe Check worked with teachers as they "found their way from writing to reflective practice." More ›

Double the Work: Challenges and Solutions to Acquiring Language and Academic Literacy for Adolescent English Language Learners

This report, commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, outlines an action-oriented agenda that includes reform in teacher education and educational research, reform in school administration practices for ELL students, and the introduction of new instructional approaches likely to increase student achievement. More ›

Book Review: An Open Language: Selected Writing on Literacy, Learning, and Opportunity

January 2007
Sondra Perl
Perl reviews this collection of Mike Rose's writings, which addresses such topics as writing, teaching, research methods, social justice, and the purposes of education within a democracy. More ›

ELL Professional Development Adapts to New Bilingual Education Legislation

July 2007
Gavin Tachibana
A Massachusetts state law bans teaching children in their own language. So Western Massachusetts Writing Project's ELL professionals threw teachers a lifeline—a course full of strategies and insights, based on their years of experience. More ›

Commission Report Finds Professional Development Is Key

The Voice, 2006
According to the National Commission on Writing's recent report Writing and School Reform, the best hope for improving both writing and schools lies in high-quality professional development. More ›

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education of the 21st Century

Henry Jenkins
Educators today confront an ever-shifting landscape when it comes to Internet technologies and their potential for expanding participatory cultures. Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explores new frameworks for literacy through the lens of participatory culture. More ›

Writing and School Reform

May 2006
Writing and School Reform is the result of five hearings held around the country to discuss the importance of writing, how to improve teaching and learning in this critical domain, and the future work of the National Commission on Writing. More ›

Writing: A Powerful Message from State Government

July 2005
In its latest report, the National Commission on Writing finds state governments place a high value on the writing skills of their employees, often providing training for professional employees deficient in writing skills. More ›

Book Review: Politics, Language, and Culture: A Critical Look at School Reform, by J. Check

The Quarterly, 2004
Marcie Wolfe
Wolfe reviews Joseph Check's text, which critiques the "top-down" process of educational reform and focuses on the struggle for school reform in complex urban environments. More ›

It Takes a School

The Voice, 2004
Mary Ann Smith
Smith describes a tour of Meade Elementary School, where a five-year partnership with the Philadelphia Writing Project has built a professional community working toward school reform. More ›

Linking Genre to Standards and Equity

The Quarterly, 2004
Tom Fox
Fox describes the work of teachers who link genre and purpose, bridging the gap between disenfranchised students and schools. More ›

On the Experience of Writing Politics, Language, and Culture: Critical Look at School Reform

The Quarterly, 2004
Joe Check
Joseph Check describes how, by suspending his daily judgment about the quality of what he wrote, he freed himself to simply produce. More ›

Opinion: My Year of Discontent

The Voice, 2004
Renee Callies
After a frustrating experience at reform in her school, Callies believes that change will only come when leadership is committed to the kind of critical inquiry that is at the core of the writing project. More ›

The Writing Project and Tulsa Schools Collaborate for School Reform That Works

The Voice, 2004
Eileen Simmons
Simmons reports on how writing project inservice can support local reform efforts by centering on pedagogy and designing a program around teacher questions and concerns. More ›

Urban Sites Focus on Reform Issues

The Voice, 2004
Art Peterson
The National Writing Project 2004 Urban Sites Conference presented participants with both exhilarating and disheartening snapshots of the condition of urban education approaching the middle of the decade. More ›

Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . Or a Ticket Out

September 2004
The National Commission on Writing, which published the landmark report The Neglected "R," focuses on the American workplace in its second report. According to this report, as technology's role continues to grow, good writing skills are increasingly valued by big business. More ›

Teacher Stories: School Reform's Missing Link

The Voice, May-June 2002
Art Peterson
Joe Check debunks five myths about school reform and argues that teachers writing about their practice is critical to making school change work. More ›

The Johnston Area Writing Partnership

National Writing Project at Work, November 2002
Ruie Pritchard, Sandra O'Berry, Patsy Butler
Authors Butler, O'Berry, and Pritchard recount how they have established and maintained a district-based satellite writing project an hour's distance from the NWP site. More ›

Reflection and Reform

The Quarterly, Summer 2002
Joe Check
Check argues for reflective teaching in the face of mandated, external "exemplary programs." He identifies five "myths" or beliefs about reflective writing and suggests ways to address the negative attitudes engendered by them. More ›

Ed Week Founder Talks School Reform

The Voice, May-June 2001
Art Peterson
As the featured speaker at the National Writing Project's Spring Meeting in April, Education Week founder Ron Wolk confronted the issue of school reform in an open discussion with meeting attendees from across the network. More ›

Mandated Reform vs. Classroom Reality

The Voice, September-October 2000
Joe Check
Joe Check takes a look at some of the issues involved in mandated school reform and advocates that teachers should remain at the center of reform. More ›

Imaginary Gardens and Real Issues: Improving Language Arts in the Urban Elementary School

The Quarterly, Winter 2000
Joe Check
Using the form of a hypothetical narrative, Check argues that improved literacy instruction is inextricably linked to improved schools, and that the NWP is an ideal vehicle for helping urban schools build needed exemplary contexts. More ›

Writing Projects and School Reform: A Local Perspective

The Quarterly, Spring 1998
Marcie Wolfe
Wolfe explains how the New York City Writing Project has increasingly worked toward a vision that allows the site to help change and restructure schools while also helping teachers improve their practice. More ›

Toward the Separation of School and State

The Voice, Winter/Spring 1998
Sheridan Blau
More ›

Book Review: Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, by Lisa Delpit

The Quarterly, Spring 1996
Joe Check
Check says Delpit's book reminds us of the need for multicultural voices, rejects the skills-versus-process dichotomy, and presents a critique that can be applied to other than the African American students. More ›

Revisited article: Reformers Proceed with Caution: Real Teachers Ahead

The Quarterly, Winter 1995
Art Peterson
This is a reprint from a 1986 article by Art Peterson, current senior editor of The Quarterly. Peterson applies his wit to the subject of educational reform and the complexity of "broad brush" reforms such as merit pay for teachers. More ›

OP 38. School Reform through Examinations: Lessons from the British Experience

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Occasional Paper, 1994
Sarah Warshauer Freedman
Freedman considers the effects of the British examination system on English language and literature learning. She concludes that high-stakes examinations present a flawed foundation on which to build an educational reform movement. More ›

Book Review: Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge, by Cochran-Smith and Lytle

The Quarterly, Summer 1993
Joe Check, Roberta Logan
Check and Logan conduct a dialogue around aspects of this text, concluding that the book will appeal to multiple audiences as it offers theory, practice, critique, description, and analysis of the challenges facing teacher research. More ›

Book Review: Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next Generation

March 2010
Elizabeth Radin Simons
Liz Simons, a teacher-consultant with the Bay Area Writing Project, reviews Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle's extensive work on practitioner inquiry, which contains their revised theory, context for the movement, and eight chapters by practitioners illustrating their theory. More ›

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