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Vol 57 No. 12 : June 15, 2005
Vol 57 No. 12 | June 15, 2005
Writing Project Awarded $26,000 from UC Regents

The South Basin Writing Project, directed by English’s Ron Strahl since 1989 and aimed at teaching educators about writing, recently received $26,000 from the University of California Regents as part of their outreach program to support what are called the California subject matter projects in writing, reading and literature, social science, international studies, mathematics, science and foreign language.

“We’ll use all of our $26,000 to conduct what we call The Invitational Institute – a five-week institute in the summer that chooses the 20 best teachers, K-12, from about 50 applications, to train to become teachers, leaders and consultants,” Strahl explained. “These are the teachers who help us provide programs for schools and districts as well as staff our own Young Writers' Camps. Each teacher in the Invitational gets a $1,000 stipend for the five weeks. All teachers will read, write, present, design a research project, and interact with 12 or so presentations from the area's best teachers of writing.”

Strahl explained that the University of California created these projects to support K-12 teachers in their professional development. “The expectations are that we will offer institutes, seminars, open programs, workshops, etc. so teachers can improve their craft and in turn help other teachers become better,” said Strahl, a Tustin resident who joined the university in1986. The Subject Matter Projects were created about 1993 and the California Writing Project was used as the prototype. The California Writing Project grew out of the Bay Area Writing Project in Berkeley, which started up in 1974 with a small NEH grant to help a group of school teachers decide how best to teach writing. That initial group of teachers then created seven California charter sites in 1977, including South Basin. In 1989 the California Writing Project went national and evolved into the National Writing Project and now there are 171 national and international sites – all devoted to the effective teaching of writing and literacy across the curriculum. Since 1989, the South Basin Writing Project has received about $3 million from all funding agencies. “In addition to our summer programs, we are expected to provide in service and professional development for schools and districts throughout the academic year,” he said.

Strahl decried a decline in funding over the last two gubernatorial administrations for such programs as the South Basin Writing Project.

“They basically have dismantled the projects and only through a very strong commitment by the UC Regents to K-12 education do we have the $26,000,” he said. “They are floating us in hopes that all the projects will be returned to full funding at some point in the future.”

Strahl credits a strong application and a sparkling history of South Basin for the grant approval. “Our goals have always been the same: to improve the teaching of writing in our schools by working closely with teachers, schools, and districts,” he said. “We change teachers' lives through the Invitational Institute – everyone says that. The Carnegie Institute said that the writing project is the single best professional development in all of education.”

Strahl is pleased that the South Basin Writing Project has received the support. “It is really something special,” he said of the project. “It gives good teachers the support they need, it gets writing into the classroom, it raises scores, it provides writing camps for students, it creates networks to help teachers make it though the year with grace and expertise, it helps prepare new teachers to the profession, it helps develop and redirect curriculum in collaboration with schools and school districts, and, in the end, it has always made a difference. South Basin has impacted lots of classrooms in its 28-year history. The rewards are inherent in the work. I am very proud of what we have done.” 

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