by Bob Haas
Richard Sterling, former director of the New York City Writing Project, is the new executive director of Berkeley's National Writing Project, based in the Graduate School of Education.
Sterling succeeds James Gray, who founded the Bay Area Writing Project in 1974 with 25 local teachers.
More than 140,000 teachers participate each year in the 163 National Writing Project sites worldwide, and over 1.3 million teachers to date have been involved in the project's programs.
"I am fortunate indeed," Sterling said, "to be heading a project that has without peer so benefited the teachers and children of our nation. You can be assured that I will work hard to maintain and enhance the reputation and work of the National Writing Project."
Sterling brings to his new position an extensive background in teacher development. He is founder of the New York City Writing Project and director of the Institute for Literacy Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York. He has been a member of the faculty at Lehman since 1972.
The National Writing Project is now in its 22nd year as a nationwide program. Its "teachers-teaching-teachers" model is considered by many experts to be the national model for similar programs in sciences, social sciences, and mathematics. It is a staff development program to improve student writing by improving the teaching of writing in the nation's schools.
Over the years, the National Writing Project has garnered impressive praise from some of the leading organizations in the US that support educational improvement.
The Carnegie Corp. of New York named it "the best large-scale effort to improve composition instruction in this country, and certainly the best on which substantial data are available."
And the National Endowment for the Humanities said, "The National Writing Project has been by far the most effective and 'cost-effective' project in the history of the endowment's support for elementary and secondary education programs."
Sterling has asked Mary Ann Smith, director of the California Writing Project, to work with him as the project's co-director.