CSUN’s Writing Project encourages collaboration to raise writing skills

Ashley Soley-Cerro

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The CSUN Writing Project, a professional development model helps teachers share their knowledge and discuss innovative ways to incorporate writing into their classrooms.

The goal of the Writing Project is to recognize how important teachers are to education reform and help students improve their test scores and writing skills by first giving teachers aid in improving their reading and writing for the subject they teach, according to a flyer for the project.

The Writing Project is a dynamic way to learn about the latest research, network with people in the field that are interested and passionate about their work, and is overall a phenomenal experience, said Lisa Kleinhofer a literacy specialist for a cluster of green dot charter high schools in South Los Angeles and assistant director for the Writing Project and a liaison for its urban sites.

“As an English teacher the writing ideas I received from the Cal State National Writing Project have been invaluable, both as a teacher and in professional development with other teachers. Now, my classes, both in English and history are writing centered,” said Jams Harris, English and history teacher at Monroe High School’s law and government magnet in North Hills California.

The Writing Project offers various workshops for teachers and some for students throughout the year, but the invitational summer institute is the projects biggest draw. With a cap of around 20 teachers per institute, one at each school that has the Writing Project, teachers must go through an application and interview process to attend the institute.

The invitational summer institute is based on the idea that teachers teach writing more effectively when they write themselves. In the institute, teachers will learn more about writing for the subject they teach, on various professional and personal topics, and different strategies. They also receive compensation, according to a flyer for the institute.

The Writing Project also offers various workshops to teachers and students throughout the year. The teachers’ workshops focus on writing strategy, while the student workshops offer a summer writing camp as well as workshops meant to help students prepare for the timed writing exams they are expected to pass to graduate high school and enter college.

Reseda High School and green dot schools also have a contract with the Writing Project, to actively work with teachers at these schools to help them develop their writing and teaching skills.

The Writing Project has been at CSUN for three years thanks to Kathleen D. Rowlands, director for the CSUN Writing Project. It is part of the National Writing Project and is one of 17 locations in California. The first project began 37 years ago at University of California Berkeley.

Since the Writing Project is partially funded through the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) and parts of title 1, 2, 3 and 5, it will most likely lose funding after this next year because of budget cuts.

Rowlands said the CSUN Writing Project would not disappear without this funding.  The project will need to become more creative in how they get funding, actively working to get more leaders and get more sponsors, Kleinhofer said.