The story and data behind Writopia’s 2023 professional development pilot, launched this winter with the NYCDOE Chancellor’s Office

By Rebecca Wallace-Segall

Within this essay, I  examine the ongoing youth literacy crisis in New York City and, along with it, two long-standing, opposing education policies—progressive and traditional—that have sought to address it. I argue that resisting dogmatic adherence to one or the other of these approaches, coupled with teacher-centered professional development opportunities that emphasize educators’ reconnection to the personal experience of writing, will improve classroom writing education goals. Over the course of a decade and a half, I co-designed a new educational framework that combines and elaborates upon the strengths of both approaches; over the past year, I co-designed a teacher-centered professional development opportunity for New York City public school teachers that allows them the space to apply that framework to their own writing and, ultimately, grow as both writers and writing educators. Inspired by John Kingdon’s open policy window theory, as a new administration took office in the city in 2022, I researched and connected with old and new contacts that lead a like-minded policy community within the Department of Education in order to implement and test this professional development project. In this paper, I imagine a city in which all writing teachers have access to joyful, teacher-centered writing workshops of their own, and the potential impacts this would have on youth; I suggest that building bridges between educators and writing experts, between progressive and traditional educators, and from high- to low-performing schools, may improve literacy education for public school youth in New York City.

Click here to read the full essay.

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