Bluegrass Writing Project

  • Burns, Leslie (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


KDE Funding For the BWP In comparison to some urban and suburban areas of this nation, the environment of the Bluegrass Writing Project (BGWP) has changed relatively little over the last sixteen years. We continue to serve a twenty-two-district service area that comprises urban, suburban, and rural schools. Lexington, home of the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Writing Project has a population of 230,000. Approximately 10% of the Lexington population is African American. The Hispanic population is increasing, since jobs are plentiful in the agriculture and equine industries. The Asian population is also increasing because of a large Toyota manufacturing plant in a nearby town and because Lexington is increasingly doing business internationally. While demographic diversity is slowly increasing in our service area as a whole, Kentucky remains a state with relatively small populations of people of color or recent immigrants. Overall, however, the number of English Language Learners is steadily in increasing in our schools and we are eager to become active in the NWP's ELL network. Two teachers certified in teaching ELL's have now completed the Summer Institute and one goal is to build a cadre of teacher leaders trom our certified ESL teachers. The Summer Institute brings together teachers who experience a wide range of classroom situations-from the challenges of urban teaching in Title I schools, to middle- and upper-middleclass schools and magnet programs populated by highly motivated and responsive students, to tiny rural schools. Because our service area is relatively small geographically, our Fellows commute to the Summer Institute with some ease. Although the BGWP is officially housed at the University of Kentucky, the BGWP Summer Institute continues to take place at a community learning center" the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. The advantages to this setting are many. The Center has a large, well-equipped meeting room with computers available to all participants. Local utilities and businesses recently donated state of the art PC's to replace our aging Macs. The Center has a number of comfortably furnished smaller rooms for breakout sessions arid writing-group meetings. Because the facility is dedicated to improving literacy across the community and because it provides programs for learners at all levels and at all ages, it provides an atmosphere that nurtures our teachers as they come together as readers, writers, and researchers. Current Issues: The Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), passed in 1990, continues to greatly influence the work of teachers and of the Bluegrass Writing Project. For example, writing portfolios are required at grades four, seven, and twelve; the writing portfolios are an important component of the state's assessment and accountability system. On the one hand, the mandated writing portfolio has prompted intense focus on writing instruction across the state. On the other hand, the focus is particularly intense on improving portfolio scores. We attempt to. balance' the tensions among the state's expectations for writing instruction, teachers' desire to improve portfolio scores, and the principles of the National Writing Project. In fact, the Director, Liz Spalding, and Assistant Director, Anne Robbins, gave an invited presentation at the NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta this past year on the topic ofthe interface between mandated writing portfolios and the activities of our project. Teacher professional development has also been influenced by KERA. KERA funded professional development activities in the schools and requires teachers to spend a certain number of hours in professional development. Teachers have also been given a degree of choice as to how they spend their professional development hours. However, the shift to site-based decision making and the requirement that all schools formulate consolidated plans have limited the choices in professional development activities that teachers actually have. Further, site-based decision-making has shifted to teachers many of the responsibilities formerly assumed by administrators. For the past several years, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has funded summer "academies" for teachers as a form of professional development. Each of the writing project sites in the state has been declared an official "academy." So, although we have no competition for teachers' professional development in teaching writing, the academies may be drawing away content-area teachers who might have applied to our Summer Institute. Another outgrowth of KERA was the creation of positions for Regional Writing Consultants who were originally charged with delivering professional development in the area of writing within their assigned regions. For the past several years, writing projects across the state have been encouraged to work closely with their Regional Writing Consultants. However, the role of Regional Writing Consultants appears to have been restructured. We anticipate that writing projects will once again be calledupon by districtsto provide professionaldevelopmentin writing. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) provides significant funding for the Bluegrass Writing Project. We are most grateful for this support. However, funding is always an issue as policy makers in Frankfort scrutinize all budget items in an attempt to economize. While we are serving more new and novice teachers than in past years, we do not feel "overwhelmed" by either new or under-prepared teachers. In fact, they bring enthusiasm, energy, and a fresh perspective to our work. Many new English language arts teachers are very well-schooled in teaching the writing processes and the kinds of writing required by the state-mandated portfolio. If anything, we may need to help them develop less formulaic approaches to teaching writing. Likewise, while "emergency certified" and under-prepared teachers are a problem in other parts of the state and nation, we are not yet feeling this challenge. The number of emergency certified language arts and English teachers, k - 12, in our area remains quite small.
Effective start/end date3/15/076/30/07


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