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Our History

From the Bay to the World

National Writing Project began in 1974 in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, where James Gray and his colleagues established a teacher-leadership program for K–16 teachers called the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP).

Gray, a teacher educator and former high school English teacher, was motivated to create a different form of professional development for teachers, one that made central the knowledge, leadership, and best practices of effective teachers, and that promoted the sharing of that knowledge with other teachers.

In partnership with Bay Area school districts, BAWP created a range of professional development services for teachers and schools interested in improving the teaching of writing and the use of writing as a learning tool across the curriculum. The structure of this first Writing Project site’s programs formed the basis of the National Writing Project’s “teachers-teaching-teachers” model of professional development.

By 1976, NWP had grown to 14 sites in six states. Over the next 15 years, the network continued to grow, with funding for Writing Project sites made possible by foundation grants and matching funds from local sources. In 1991, NWP was authorized as a federal education program, allowing the network to expand to previously underserved areas, reaching all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Since the end of directed federal funding in education in 2011, NWP has continued to develop innovative programming with support from a wide range of federal and private funders. With an emphasis on emerging technologies in writing and learning, renewed attention to writing, civic engagement, community journalism, and a steadfast belief in the potential of great teachers to become educational leaders, NWP continues to serve the nation.

“Nineteen seventy-four was a big year for writing education in America. That summer, at the first summer institute of the first Writing Project site in the country, Jim Gray put into action a radically new idea about teacher education—that successful classroom teachers make the best teachers of other teachers.”

Sheridan Blau

Professor Emeritus, Ph.D.

Brandeis University

Support the Legacy of Our Work

Your support is vital to achieving our goal of a site within reach of every teacher in the nation.

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