Open letter on behalf of the NWP

The Gist:

  • The current draft of the federal budget cuts direct funding for the National Writing Project.
  • The NWP has been one of the few extremely successful examples of a nationally-networked effort to improve K-12 writing for 36 years.
  • We must communicate with Congress to change the budget.

The Whole Story:

Dear Rep. Fattah, Sen. Casey and Sen. Specter:

I write to you on behalf of the National Writing Project. More precisely, I write to you on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of students and teachers the program has transformed over its 36 years.

Under the budget proposed by President Obama, national funding for the NWP would be cut. In a Feb. 1 press release from the U.S. Department of Education, the NWP was lumped in with 5 other projects losing funding because the DOE claims they “duplicate local or state programs or have not had a significant measurable impact.”

As the NWP is unique as a networked writing instruction program with 200+ local sites serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, I am left to believe Sec. Duncan is claiming the NWP falls under the category of not having a “significant measurable impact.”

This too is untrue.

A 1987 longitudinal study on the effects of the NWP by Kathy Krendl and Julie Dodd found participating third through twelfth graders showed an increase “in interest in learning about writing, in their level of confidence, and in their association of self-esteen with good writing.

Not only that, the study also found a decrease “in students’ feelings of discomfort about completing writing assignments and in their feelings that they do not write well and that writing is difficult.”

In a 2007 study of the NWP’s Local Site Research Initiative, across nine localities students showed significant or non-significant favorable results in all seven categories.

This should not have been surprising considering the DOE’s own data listed the NWP as exceeding its performance targets in 2001. Indeed participants’ ratings across all categories ranged from 95-88 percent reporting positive impact at their follow-up assessment of the program. This went well above the program’s target of 75 percent in each category.

Were this simply an impassioned plea, I would have hesitated to write. The data speaks for itself, the National Writing Project has offered a significant return on investment in its 36 year history. Federal funding for the NWP must be maintained if we are to continue striving to meet the Project’s goal of “a future where every person is an accomplished writer, engaged learner, and active participant in a digital, interconnected world.”

I thank your for your time and attention to this matter. Please, let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Sincerely,

Zachary Chase

English Teacher

Science Leadership Academy

Philadelphia, PA

(Note: See also Bud Hunt’s post on this topic.)

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