A Brief History of the National Writing Project: James Gray and colleagues in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, established a university-based program for K–16 teachers called the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP) in 1974. Little did they know then that their project would develop into The National Writing Project (NWP), an organization currently comprised of nearly 200 sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As a former high school English teacher and teacher educator, Jim envisioned a professional development model for teachers that valued the knowledge, leadership, and best practices of effective teachers and promoted teachers sharing their knowledge with other teachers. From this vision emerged the core principles of the National Writing Project's national program model. they are:
- Teachers at every level—from kindergarten through college—are the agents of reform; universities and schools are ideal partners for investing in that reform through professional development.
- Writing can and should be taught, not just assigned, at every grade level. Professional development programs should provide opportunities for teachers to work together to understand the full spectrum of writing development across grades and across subject areas.
- Knowledge about the teaching of writing comes from many sources: theory and research, the analysis of practice, and the experience of writing. Effective professional development programs provide frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically.
- There is no single right approach to teaching writing; however, some practices prove to be more effective than others. A reflective and informed community of practice is in the best position to design and develop comprehensive writing programs.
- Teachers who are well informed and effective in their practice can be successful teachers of other teachers as well as partners in educational research, development, and implementation. Collectively, teacher-leaders are our greatest resource for educational reform.
Over time, the NWP model has been recognized and celebrated for its effectiveness. The Carnegie Corporation of New York evaluated the National Writing Project as the best large-scale effort to improve composition instruction now in operation in this country. The National Endowment for the Humanities stated that the National Writing Project has been by far the most efficient cost-effective project in the history of the Endowment's support for elementary and secondary education programs. The National Council of Teachers of English honored the National Writing Project as an exemplary national resources. The Council for Basic Education stated that the National Writing Project is perhaps the most successful and certainly the most far-reaching of all the recent initiatives to improve the condition of writing. The National Writing Project has been successful because it helps teachers become competent writers themselves and thus be better teachers of writing.
NWP no longer receives a core grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support its work. Instead, it must rely on funding from SEED grants and from private organizations. This hampered its goal to place a writing project site within reach of every teacher in the nation. Indeed, a number of sites less fortunate than ours have no state funding. Many have disappeared as a result.
The Cal State Northridge Writing Project:
The Cal State Northridge Writing Project began as a satellite site of the UCLA Writing Project and was funded as an independent site in 2009, joining the network of California Writing Project sites situated at 16 California State Universities and University of California campuses statewide. We are an affiliate of the National Writing Project and a site of the California Writing Project (one of the California Subject Matter Projects).
Our Directors and Board members have strong ties to the Writing Project on both a national and local level. We are long time Teacher Leaders. We understand the power of the original Writing Project model and are strongly committed to adopting its goals as our own:
- To improve student writing by improving the teaching of writing;
- To improve university and school professional development programs for classroom teachers; and
- To increase the professional power of classroom teachers.
Our focus is on the core mission of improving the teaching of writing and improving the use of writing across the disciplines by offering high-quality professional development programs for educators in their service areas, at all grade levels, K–16 and across the curriculum.