Professional Learning

Investing in the Improvement of Education: Lessons to be Learned from the National Writing Project


This research report examines the impact of the National Writing Project in the context of decades of educational improvement efforts, highlighting the NWP's success in building durable infrastructure for long-term, sustained school improvement efforts, and arguing that this success serves as a model for future educational investment.



How we invest in education matters as much as what we invest in. Most efforts to invest in the improvement of US education have come in the form of expenditures made on short‐term projects. Many of these efforts produce high quality services and resources; however, this grant‐making strategy by itself is insufficient to bringing about significant and sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. What is needed, we argue, is a complementary strategy that invests money in the development of educational improvement capital, particularly in the form of coherent educational improvement infrastructures.

For nearly fifteen years we have had the opportunity to document and assess the work of the National Writing Project, an effort that we believe comes very close to fulfilling the criteria needed to satisfy the requirements of being a national educational improvement infrastructure. The National Writing Project, we argue, provides a strong feasibility proof and a highly illuminative example that steady investment can indeed produce a national improvement infrastructure. In this case, the NWP is well positioned to improve the teaching of writing; other similar infrastructures could be developed to support the improvement of other disciplines.