The National Writing Project (NWP) is a network of nearly 200 local sites across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is run by and for teachers who care about writing, the teaching of writing, and the use of writing in their teaching. The network serves teachers across disciplines, from early childhood through university. Driven by a belief that access to high-quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity, educators at local sites draw on a shared national program model, working with area schools to develop resources, offer professional development programs, and build knowledge of the teaching of writing. With its long-established network and deep reservoir of improvement knowledge, NWP is well positioned to initiate and support networked improvement communities (NICs) within the larger network.
When NWP recently identified “writing as argument” in secondary schools as a key problem, one such NIC, the College Ready Writers Program (CRWP), engaged a group of 12 writing projects across 10 states to work with 44 districts to design and test new approaches to teaching argumentative writing. Following an inquiry approach that included testing proposed improvements and sharing and monitoring results, CRWP eventually developed a model curriculum, as well as complementary professional learning tools. CRWP also produced a range of summative and formative tools for both student writing assessment and providing feedback on teacher practice. An intensive study by SRI International that incorporated teachers’ instructional logs, surveys, interviews, and observations found significant changes in teacher practice. It also presented significant evidence of improvement in student performance. For example, as measured by the Using Sources Tool assessment, CRWP recently showed an increase in the percentage of students who used sources to support their claims from 31% in Fall 2016 to 60% in Spring 2017.
As a NIC operating with the support of the larger NWP network improvement infrastructure, CRWP was able to provide the larger network with a model for tackling a common problem and pursuing a shared goal. This NIC structure has inspired and enabled educators to tackle a problem that might have seemed insurmountable if faced alone.