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School of Education Succeeds in Helping High-Poverty, Rural School Districts

Albany, NY (May 23, 2016) – For the past three years, the University at Albany School of Education has teamed up on a national project to help improve student success in rural school districts.

The School’s Capital District Writing Project (CDWP) is one of only 12 sites across the U.S. to be directly involved with the College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP), which is designed to help rural school districts with high poverty rates improve student writing while increasing graduation rates and college attendance through sustained, careful professional development for the districts' middle and high school teachers.

Capital District Writing Project (CDWP)
The School of Education’s Capital District Writing Project (CDWP) has spent the last three years teaming up on a national project to improve student success in 22 rural school districts across 10 states.

Supported by federal grants from the National Writing Project (NWP), a team of teacher-consultants from the CDWP have worked closely with schools in the Capital Region including Canajoharie, Fort Plain, Gloversville, and Rensselaer. The team has strived to enhance the quality of writing instruction, so students are better prepared for college-level work. And in the process of helping students become more successful readers and writers, the district teachers have also further strengthened their own expertise in writing and instruction.

“Writing is intimately connected to thinking and learning,” said Robert Bangert-Drowns, dean of UAlbany’s School of Education. “Helping teachers to help their students—particularly students who come from economically challenged environments—become better writers is a powerful way to develop capacity for reasoning and understanding.”

Now, a new NWP study confirms the effectiveness of their efforts.

Following an extensive evaluation of the CRWP project, the study results specifically showed the program had a positive, and statistically significant effect on the four attributes of student argument writing - content, structure, stance, and conventions. In particular, CRWP students demonstrated greater proficiency in the quality of reasoning and use of evidence in their writing. It was measured against the National Writing Project’s Analytic Writing Continuum for Source-Based Argument.

“By opening the conversation about the teaching of writing, the National Writing Project tapped into the resources we already possessed and provided professional development to enable us to grow as individuals, as teachers, and as leaders,” said Lisa Sue Trembley, participant in the CRWP and English teacher at Fort Plain Junior/Senior High School. “All teachers should be afforded the same opportunity if we truly want to see change in our schools.”

UAlbany’s Associate VP for Writing and Critical Inquiry Robert Yagelski, who has directed the CDWP since its inception in 2004, was also encouraged by the results. He believes the program’s evaluation is compelling evidence for the use of teacher professional development to improve student outcomes, and enhance writing instruction in schools.

“This is an exciting study,” said Yagelski, who is also an associate professor of English education in the Department of Educational Theory & Practice, and an affiliated member of the English Department. “It validates what we at CDWP have been doing in Capital Region schools for more than a decade. The positive impact of the CRWP is a testament to the dedication of the CDWP team who worked on this project, especially project director Carol Forman-Pemberton, who is also co-director of CDWP. It is also a testament to the hard work and dedication of the teachers in the schools who participated in the CRWP.”

About the Capital District Writing Project:

The Capital District Writing Project is a community of educators working to improve writing, teaching, and learning in the region's schools. In partnership with the University at Albany School of Education, CDWP brings together teachers to engage in writing, to study writing and to create professional opportunities for teachers to work toward improving writing instruction. A site of the National Writing Project, CDWP offers effective, research-based professional development for teachers in all content areas and at all levels of education.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.