National Writing Project

About Project Outreach

Project Outreach supported resource development and program activities intended to enhance the capacity of local sites to understand and address issues of equity in their local programming. Project Outreach engaged cohorts of sites in a facilitated site development process intended to help them diversify leadership and provide improved opportunities for sustained professional development to teachers working in communities impacted by poverty.

Participating sites undertook a three-year process of site inquiry and program development that helped them expand the availability of writing project services, develop more relevant and effective programming, and increase the diversity of their leadership.

Goals

Project Outreach expanded the capacity of the NWP to serve as a resource for educational improvement across all communities. Specifically, Project Outreach supported sites in the pursuit of three goals:

  • To expand access to sustained, high-quality professional development through the NWP network of sites, with an emphasis on teachers in communities impacted by poverty
  • To increase the quality of services provided by writing project sites by improving the professional development they offer and by making it more relevant to teachers of students in communities impacted by poverty
  • To improve the quality of programs conducted by writing project sites by increasing the racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity in project leadership so that teacher knowledge can more closely reflect the diversity of local communities.

Background

Impetus for Project Outreach grew out of concerns that disparities in the local resource base within a site's service area could have profound implications for the ongoing development of writing project sites as local organizations. Schools and districts serving low-income communities might have fewer opportunities to access local writing project services, and teachers in these communities might have fewer pathways to develop leadership skills and act as leaders. Over time, it was theorized, this could result in patterns of programming and leadership that did not address the site's full service area with equity.

In 1995 the DeWitt Wallace–Reader's Digest Fund awarded a grant to the National Writing Project to study this problem and generate solutions through a site-focused process of inquiry and action. Initial funding supported a group of eighteen sites interested in increasing the quantity and quality of National Writing Project services to teachers in low-income communities. As members of Project Outreach, each of the eighteen sites undertook a three-year program of site-level inquiry, program development, and action research, with an emphasis on equity and diversity in writing project work.

As a result of their work, these sites developed a series of national projects to disseminate their learning and support sites' efforts to expand their work with equity issues. These projects included an expansion of the NWP mission statement and the founding of the ELL Network, the TIC Network, and the Professional Writing Retreats. Based on the success of the model these Project Outreach members had created, the NWP continued support for Project Outreach as a tool for sites to address issues of equity in their services and operations.

In the fall of 2000, the National Writing Project launched a second cohort of Project Outreach. Working carefully with a team of national coordinators over three years, the eight participating local sites significantly increased their services to teachers in communities impacted by poverty and made substantive changes to their site leadership. A third cohort began in 2006.

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