I realized, talking to Representatives Justin Amash and Bill Huizenga last week on Capitol Hill, neither of whom had heard of the National Writing Project, that perhaps the NWP seems more ubiquitous and foundational to those of us who are associated with it than it does to others. When an organization is so fabulous, with such a long track record of success and influence, it's hard for us to remember that not everyone in government--or education--knows about it. A meeting with a policy analyst and a teacher liaison in the Dept of Ed gave me food for thought about how to document the improvement in student learning that results from our programs. Individual teachers collect data on the test score increases of their students after implementing new instructional techniques developed during their month-long NWP Institute, but our site as a whole hasn't systematically compiled this data. The national office has been doing systematic data collection at some sites, as the Research Brief that I left with many in Washington documents. I keep thinking, as I walked around the mall after my meeting at the Det of Ed, though, that every penny (and hour) that I could spend compiling data and applying for multiple competitive grants, is one less penny (and hour) I could spend fostering teacher learning. I will need to get teachers involved in data collection and analysis in order for this work to simultaneously contribute to their learning. That's the way that the National Writing Project operates.
I think we are all still reeling from the shock of funding elimination. We just don't understand how we survived the Bush years only to be cut under Obama, whom many of us supported wholeheartedly. The National Writing Project has become virtually synonymous with respect for teachers as intellectuals. It is the program that made "teachers teaching teachers" its watchword. Each site tries to become an "intellectual home" for the teachers in its service area, building local relationships with access to nationally-vetted information. With the end of funding in sight, teachers are feeling betrayed and heartbroken. The National Writing Project puts its money into respecting teachers' knowledge. It's being cut. There's a lot of emotion out there.
At my university, there are plenty of courses for undergraduate pre-service teachers for me to teach. My job isn't in jeopardy. What, I've wondered, would be lost if I decided to let our local Writing Project site go? Quite simply this: the buoyancy that the National Writing Project provides for expert, veteran teachers who are on the brink of drowning in discouragement.
Yes, we'll pursue private grants. Unfortunately, the National Writing Project, to remain and strengthen what it has become, needs those grants nationally and not state by state or site by site. We will seek the latter until national funding is restored, we hope.
Laura Roop was a beautiful, quiet presence from the University of Michigan alongside us from the LMWP last Thursday in Washington. As part of the nation-wide effort to blog and editorialize our response to Duncan's budget recommendations and recent Senate budgets, she wrote a blog post on the Oakland Writing Project site.
This is the link to the NWP's page about recent blog posts: http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/3540
Here's the link to the Oakland WP page: http://oaklandwritingproject.net/content/?p=365
I know that the National Writing Project is not the only program on the minds of lawmakers, and that they are all doing good work out of great conviction. I know that money is tight. I am still just baffled about Duncan's choice, and the Senate's choice, to eviscerate this organization of the teachers, by the teachers, for the teachers.