The study took place in English language arts classrooms in 47 rural districts across 16 states in the U.S and reports impacts for students in grades 7-9.
Study authors reported on the characteristics of the population of students in participating districts in the year prior to the start of the study (2016-17), rather than the analysis sample. The student population in these districts consisted of 24% Black non-Hispanic, 62% White non-Hispanic, 1.3% American Indian/Alaska Native, 0.4% Asian, and 0.1% Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander. Nine percent of students were Hispanic, 75% were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and 6% were classified as English language learners.
The National Writing Project's (NWP) College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) is designed to improve the argument writing of students in upper elementary, middle, and high school by introducing English language arts (ELA) teachers to new instructional practices with support from the NWP network. NWP work is delivered through local, university-based site affiliates that provide the professional development (PD) in their service areas. To develop capacity for the work, local Writing Projects first hold Advanced Institutes to prepare local teacher leaders to provide C3WP professional development the year prior to implementation of the program in partner districts. Local Writing Projects then implement C3WP at scale in the partner districts, with the help of these teacher leaders.
C3WP has three components: intensive PD to support classroom implementation, instructional resources that focus on key skills for argument writing, and formative assessment to focus analysis and inform next steps. C3WP is characterized by cycles of argument writing. A cycle of argument writing starts when PD providers introduce an instructional resource and help teachers plan for classroom implementation. Teachers then use the instructional resource in the classroom, often with in-classroom support from a teacher leader. Teachers collaboratively review student writing generated from the resource in PD. Together, they use the formative assessment tool to determine the next resource based on student progress. Teachers are expected to get at least 40 hours of PD and implement at least four C3WP cycles each year.
Districts in the comparison condition implemented their existing professional development for English language arts teachers and typical instruction. Each district assigned to the comparison condition agreed not to seek professional development focusing on instruction of argument writing, and to wait until the end of the study to use any intervention tools, materials, or strategies. The comparison condition districts were eligible to offer the intervention in the year following the study (2020-2021).
Support for implementation
Local Writing Project site leaders often provided in-classroom support for teachers, including co-teaching and coaching, assisted teachers in applying the formative assessment tools to student writing samples, and helped teachers plan the next instructional steps. Site leaders also conducted annual needs assessments and asked participating districts for feedback on the professional development plans.