North Texas teachers, students spend summer honing skills

While students were enjoying their break, more than 3,000 teachers used the summer months to improve their craft. Through the National Writing Project (NWP), teachers across the country, including hundreds in North Texas, worked face-to-face and in online communities to share and learn new ways to teach writing, engage colleagues and enhance their leadership.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, the North Star of Texas Writing Project, led by UNT College of Education faculty member Carol Wickstrom, provided professional development for more than 200 teachers and writing camps for more than 500 students. In June, students attended weeklong writing camps to strengthen their writing performance on the state-mandated STAAR test. Using the project’s Finding True North Lesson Frameworks, campers were able to bolster their writing confidence.  

Throughout the summer, teachers attended a variety of events including Invitational Writing Institutes held in Denton, Gainesville, Keller and Waxahachie. Using a writing workshop approach, these teachers received 40 hours of professional development and a set of professional books. Other teachers attended workshops including a Human Rights Institute, Implementing Writing in the Secondary Classroom Workshop, an Advanced Writing Instruction Institute, and an Expository Writing Institute (sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) in Mesquite.

“Participating in these writing institutes and workshops supports teachers as they improve their classroom practices to meet their students’ needs,” Wickstrom said. “Their participation in this work helps them grow as educators and learners and provides a gateway into the larger network of teachers, administrators and leaders in NWP. The NWP network is one that continues to support the growth of its members.”

NWP programs serving all 50 states provided classroom teachers deep and broad content and innovative approaches, anchored in improving instruction for today's young people. From collaborative work on argument writing in the NWP College, Career and Community Writers Program (C3WP) to youth programs aimed at sparking student interest and authentic learning experiences, these experiences aimed to get teachers excited to return to classrooms and share what they learned.  

Teachers who attended these NWP programs joined a nationwide professional network of educators (young children through higher education) focused on high-quality, effective and sustained professional development to improve the teaching of writing and learning in classrooms across the country, said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, NWP executive director.

"NWP teacher leaders work using our evidence-based programs to help their students become better writers and learners," she said. "They also develop their own skills and capacities to work with colleagues to improve education and the profession more broadly.”  

Advancing the national scale-up of NWP’s College, Career and Community Writers Program, 80 local Writing Project sites held Advanced Institutes to provide professional development in middle and high schools serving urban, rural and other high-need communities across the country. The goal of the program is to assure more teachers can support students’ growth in reading and writing skills, with a specific emphasis on writing arguments based on nonfiction texts. In one of the largest and most rigorous studies of teacher professional development, SRI International found that this work has a positive, statistically significant impact on student writing.

Beyond this initiative, the NWP network of local sites, teacher leaders and programs encompass multiple disciplines — English, math, science, art, civics, history — and spaces beyond the classroom: online communities, after-school programs, museums and libraries. Through these partnerships, Writing Project sites extend the reach of their work to dedicated educators developing next-generation curriculum and learning opportunities that support all young people as writers and creators.

"We know through research that programs designed and delivered by NWP sites have a positive effect on the writing achievement of students across grade levels, schools and contexts,” Eidman-Aadahl said. “Now is the time to continue to support this ongoing, high-quality professional development for teachers, principals and school leaders."