The National Writing Project began in 1974 at the University of California-Berkeley. James Gray, a teacher and teacher educator, established a university-based professional development organization known as the Bay Area Writing Project. In collaboration with teachers, BAWP offered a summer professional development experience that soon led to inservice programming for schools and districts, as well as continuity experiences for teachers of all grades and content areas. BAWP activity emphasized the importance of teachers teaching teachers and of teachers experiencing writing as a process. By 1976, the NWP had grown to 14 sites in six states. In 1991, annual federal funding led to rapid expansion, including the chartering of the Illinois State Writing Project under the direction of Dr. Janice Neuleib. The core principles of every National Writing Project site include:
- Teachers at every level—from kindergarten through college—are the agents of reform; universities and schools are ideal partners for investing in that reform through professional development.
- Writing can and should be taught, not just assigned, at every grade level. Professional development programs should provide opportunities for teachers to work together to understand the full spectrum of writing development across grades and across subject areas.
- Knowledge about the teaching of writing comes from many sources: theory and research, the analysis of practice, and the experience of writing. Effective professional development programs provide frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically.
- There is no single right approach to teaching writing; however, some practices prove to be more effective than others. A reflective and informed community of practice is in the best position to design and develop comprehensive writing programs.
- Teachers who are well informed and effective in their practice can be successful teachers of other teachers as well as partners in educational research, development, and implementation. Collectively, teacher-leaders are our greatest resource for educational reform.