Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University receives big boost



Funding will benefit local K-12 public schools

Image: Fairfield campusAnnual funding of $50,000 from the state legislature and Connecticut Department of Education has been renewed for a community-wide reading and writing program at Fairfield University. The award is part of a two-year, $97,000 grant supporting the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) at the Fairfield-based institution. Established in 2002, CWP-Fairfield is a network of educators dedicated to improving the teaching of writing in elementary and secondary schools, and since its inception, the literacy program has received an estimated $1 million from state and federal aid and foundation grants.

With the renewed funding, university faculty members and public school teachers will continue to provide innovative programs that are designed to improve students' writing abilities and support professional development programs for classroom teachers. The money will allow for CWP to work with educators and school districts throughout Connecticut to help students become more fluent, thoughtful, effective and correct writers.

According to Faye Gage, director of Fairfield's CWP, teachers who work in the schools offer workshops, demonstration classes, coaching and curriculum documents that are tailored to the needs of the particular schools. To date, CWP has worked with educators in 30 school districts in Connecticut.

In an interview with the National Writing Project, Gage said the Fairfield site serves some of the most affluent suburban towns, but CWP is also charged with working with school districts in some of the nation's poorest cities. The project has been particularly invested in providing professional development in Hartford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Danbury - cities where the gap between white students and students of color is particularly significant. "Every teacher we work with has 20 to 120 students each year, and we have been working in Connecticut for nearly 25 years. The number of lives we have touched in regard to literacy education is huge," she said. "The grants are the means by which we continue to serve the educational community," Gage added.

Throughout its existence, the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield has trained more than 400 teachers, kindergarten through college, to become literacy leaders in their schools. "After an intensive summer institute, the teachers return to their classrooms to work with students and to share their own professional development with colleagues," Gage said. Under the program, teachers from suburban and urban areas are exposed to a rich assortment of programs, including nationally recognized speakers on reading, writing and learning issues.

Gage acknowledges the work of providing literacy can be difficult, but the benefits are immeasurable. "A week ago one of our teachers sent me a copy of a letter from a parent whose son hated writing," she said. The parent wrote, "I've been watching my son all evening, working on the essay for your class, and, I have to tell you this is the first time I can remember seeing him truly enjoying the process of writing. Thank you for whatever you are doing."  

Recognized by the esteemed Carnegie Corporation of New York, CWP-Fairfield has also been designated as a Center for Excellence by the Connecticut State Legislature.

For more information contact Faye Gage at (203) 254-4000, ext. 3124 or e-mail at fgage@fairfield.edu.

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Media Contact: Mark Gregorio, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, mgregorio1@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 1, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 132