Educators who coordinated a partnership with the National Writing Project at Northwestern State University and schools in Grant, Red River, Avoyelles and Jackson parishes released findings last week that indicated significant improvement in preparing students for writing at the college level. The two-year study targeted districts that were rural with high poverty rates that struggled with test scores, particularly in English and language arts.
Key findings indicate a positive impact in all four areas of student argument writing: content, structure, stance and conventions in grades 7-10 and that teachers benefit from professional development and support from supervisors and administrators.
Lisa Davis, director of the NSU Writing Project, shared findings during an informational for district administrators that included round table discussions and information about resources.
Davis said the National Writing Project’s core principles are to help teachers understand the full spectrum of writing development across grades and across subject areas. She and school liaisons Leeanne Bordelon and Dr. Martha Young led workshops for teachers at their districts to share best practices and promote collaboration for teaching writing.
“Teacher-led professional development is effective and improved teacher instruction,” Davis said. The results are that teachers grow in skills and teaching abilities and students write more and with better success.
“It’s the best thing we ever did,” said Melanie Lavespere, an administrator in Grant Parish. “Our teachers are learning better ways to teach writing, not just assigning writing projects.”
The National Writing Project study was the largest and most rigorous of its kind and included college-ready writers programs in 10 states with 400 teachers and 25,000 students. Davis said the results were quantitatively significant. SRI International, a non-profit research institute, collected and reported the findings.
“Certain practices are effective and there is no single approach” in teaching writing, she said. Results improved when teachers collaborated to share strategies that were useful, practical and relevant, that connected to the curriculum and to state standards. “The participating schools had leadership that was courageous to try these innovative practices. The teachers see the value of the work.”
For information on the NSU Writing Project, visit nsuwp.nsula.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org.