Jack Gantos, author of the popular children's book series Rotten Ralph and Joey Pigza, signs one of his books before speaking last year to teacher consultants of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project in Fayetteville.
Grant Establishes State Network of National Writing Project Sites
The Northwest Arkansas Writing Project received a $4,000 grant from the National Writing Project in 2010-2011 to develop a state network of writing project sites.
The sites include the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project, the Great Bear Writing Project at the University of Central Arkansas, the Little Rock Writing Project at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and the Arkansas Delta Writing Project at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. The newly established network is the National Writing Project Sites of Arkansas, and its work is defined as helping to spread the mission of the National Writing Project around the state.
The National Writing Project is a teacher-driven professional development program that strengthens teachers' skills and understanding of teaching writing. It serves teachers of writing at all grade levels, primary through university, and in all subjects. The mission of the National Writing Project is to improve student achievement by improving the teaching of writing and learning in the nation's schools.
Founded in 1974, the National Writing Project is comprised of over 200 university-based sites in all 50 states.
The Northwest Arkansas Writing Project, based in the department of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions, is a 15-year member site of the research-backed National Writing Project. Its director, Chris Goering, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, offered, "Building this relationship is an important step for literacy instruction in our state. In looking at what other state networks have accomplished in Missouri and Mississippi, there is a tremendous upside in this new collective. Every student in Arkansas deserves a teacher who has participated in a National Writing Project summer writing institute or school-based professional development program."
"Time and time again, teachers who participate in our Invitational Summer Institute tell us it's the best professional development they've ever experienced," added Stephanie Vanderslice, director of the Great Bear Writing Project at UCA. "By forming a state network, we can capitalize on our strengths to reach every teacher in the state."
National Writing Project Sites of Arkansas will focus on that very goal, and the new state network is set to face its first major challenge, a funding cut to the National Writing Project by the U.S. Congress.
"I understand the financial woes of our country, but cashing in tomorrow to buy today is short-sighted. Education is our future and at least two of the programs that actually make statistical differences for their teacher participants and their students are the National Writing Project and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards," Goering added. "Inherent to our network will be the support from each other to work through times like these and search for solutions such as diversified external funding opportunities and an expanded scope for partnerships with public, private and charter schools."
The Arkansas Delta Writing Project in Jonesboro, a site that just inducted its third group of teacher consultants, the status a teacher gains following completion of the Invitational Summer Institute, finds itself in a far different position than that of the longer established sites in Fayetteville, Conway and Little Rock.
"Being relatively brand new, we are still growing leaders from within and forming our identity in northeast Arkansas," shared Dixie Keyes, associate professor of education at Arkansas State."We have plans to begin a new teacher initiative to support recent teacher education graduates in our area, and we also hope to begin a Youth Writer's Camp in the summer of 2012."
National Writing Project sites have a strong network through their partnership with universities, which helps sites to provide a professional learning community for writing project teachers. Sites facilitate various continuity events such as writing retreats, inquiry or teacher study groups and advanced institutes on writing. A unique form of professional development, National Writing Project teacher consultants also customize inservice for teachers.
Sally Crisp, director of the Little Rock Writing Project, added, "the National Writing Project's teachers-teaching-teachers model, the opportunity for inquiry and growth in a hospitable professional community, these make for a different sort of professional development, one in which teachers find renewed commitment to their craft."
For more information about National Writing Project Sites of Arkansas or to be redirected to individual sites, please contact Chris Goering at firstname.lastname@example.org