Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DC Bound! National Writing Project Spring Meeting in Support of Effective Educator Development @writingproject #NWPSM14

It's spring break. I know this because the weather is iffy, I've had more time to get into K-12 schools, and I'm on a train to Washington, DC, to meet with Representatives and Congressmen (and women) to promote support for the National Writing Project. Once upon a time, resources to support effective educators was demonstrated through earmarks provided to NWP, but times in U.S. Education changed rapidly and now, every year, directors from all the sites travel to the capitol to articulate the importance of our work.

I posted a video in 2011 when I first heard that the NWP (the organization that made me the educator I am) was in danger of being wiped into oblivion because of ill-informed leaders and a failing economy. Watching my video in support of writing instruction from three years ago, I am reminded of why I continue to advocate for the National Writing Project with all my passion as a teacher with 18+ years experience. In fact, when I finished my doctorate at Syracuse University, I knew the only work I wanted to do was as a NWP director at one of the 200 sites across the country. I took on the role at Fairfield University the same year that a wave of anti-education, anti-teacher, and pro-testing rhetoric swept all sanity away from policy makers, politicians, and elected officials.

My administrative assistant, Ellen Israel, Jason Courtmanche of UConn, and I have been collecting evidence to bring to DC to once again to make the claim that the model at work is irreplaceable to Connecticut schools and districts. We invest in teacher leadership which, in return, allows stellar educators to make tremendous impact on the students they serve.

For me, it is a no-brainer.

  • 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 be and should be taught, not just assigned, at every grade level. Professional development 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.

Since 2011, educational reform has moved out of the hands of professionals: K-12 educators, administrators, and university faculty, and into the hand of individuals who have usurped best practices for their own political and financial gain (some call this corporate reform...others call it neoliberalism...I call it tragic). We are in Washington, once again, to counter this movement and to demonstrate, with decades of evidence, that the work we do matters and should continue to be the best professional development offered across the nation.

And this is why I'm more than happy to spend my vacation as an advocate for NWP. It is what I believe in.

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