Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Save the NWP!

Thousands of teachers who have benefited from the National Writing Project are now blogging on its behalf, and Tweeting about it at #blog4NWP. "In March President Barack Obama signed a bill eliminating direct federal funding for the National Writing Project, so NWP teachers are fighting to get its funding reinstated the best way they know how: with writing." I want to throw my hat into the ring and let everyone know how important the National Writing Project is, and how much of a return on investment it offers the U.S. taxpayer, so you can help us save this valuable program.

I’m a high school English teacher at Central High School in Independence, Oregon. I became aware of the NWP because a colleague from another district told me about the wonderful experience she’d had at the Oregon Writing Project Summer Institute at Willamette University the year before. I applied and was given an opportunity to take part in this continuing education opportunity thanks to the grant offered through the NWP. Compared to other educational reform initiatives, the outlay for the American taxpayer was minimal. Essentially, it paid for some graduate credits through the University. It's the organization provided through the NWP that makes this so much more than a handful of discrete classes. Now let me tell you about the results of that investment.

Over the course of the summer institute, I was exposed to cutting edge research and experienced educators who had been putting best practices to work in their schools for years. Not only did I leave the program with a host of new lessons, but with a framework for completely revamping the way writing instruction occurs at my high school. Part of the application process for the program involves a guarantee by building administrators that they will set aside some time for institute participants to present what they’ve learned. We also have to make a commitment to share our new knowledge with our staffs, and have to come back in the fall and report on the success of those efforts. When I shared what I’d learned through the NWP, my colleagues got very excited. We have completely changed the way we provide writing instruction, not just in English classes, but across all departments. That means that 900 kids are benefiting this year from an investment that cost the taxpayer less a sixth of what they pay for a single student in a given year. And the benefits of this investment will continue to grow. Not only will those 900 kids be better writers, but because we’ve changed the way we teach that small government investment will affect thousands of kids.

Now, I know this is anecdotal, but if other participants receive even a fraction of the buy-in from their building staffs that I have received, the NWP will improve the educations of millions of American public school students, and, when compared to the impact of the program, the outlay is tiny. The NWP is a great example of the kind of responsible, effective governance everyone can agree on. Please help us protect this valuable program for the sake of our students.

(Here's another idea: Perhaps the Fed could give the NWP a massive loan (say, $26 Billion) at an interest rate of less than 1%. Then, they could allow the NWP to use that money to loan the federal government money at much higher interest rates. The resulting income would more than cover all the NWPs expenses. Does this sound like a crazy way to fund a government program? Well then, why did we offer that same deal to the Central Bank of Libya? I think it's safe to say the investment in the NWP will benefit the United States a lot more than a gift to Muammar Qaddafi.)

Please, learn more here and contact your representative. Share my alternative funding idea, if you think it would help.

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