The Writers Room® Program

Community-based Writing Coaches


answers your questions

How do you measure success?
Here are some unusual, but accurate ways we measure success.
  • hefty writing folders stuffed with initial drafts, revisions, final copies, and authors' comments on how they see themselves as writers
  • looking for new and more complex samples of student writing to update our Training Manual so that new coaches will know what to expect
  • not being able to tell what feeder elementary schools our middle school students came from
  • overhearing a student ask another student if he could write a poem to make her happy
The other, more traditional ways are also looking pretty good.
  • The achievement gap in our middle schools is getting smaller every year.
  • Our long-standing involvement with Montclair State University continues to benefit both parties.
  • We are developing a 10th grade focus for writing across the curriculum.

What keeps the program together?
The two co-directors—Ellen Kolba and Gemma Sullivan—hold monthly meetings with all the coach managers. The agenda usually includes something long-range that everyone is working on, for example, the need for upgrading the training material. Concerns, problems, successes are shared. We know that we are always learning from each other as well as from our students.

Is there an evaluation process for the coaches?
For about a month after the training, the coach manager spends time with each new coach. Since the coach manager is the one person who is always there, she or he gets a very good idea of how each coach develops a personal coaching style. One of the best ways to maintain or improve skills is the group read-around--just like in the training, only it's for real.

When do you train teachers?
Sometimes we run a summer program; other times we use district staff development days. We work closely with subject matter leaders and with our contact at Central Office.

How are you funded?
We began with a state grant, then, as the program grew we needed a coach manager in every school. She or he is always there on scheduled days for coaching, and in between classes, the coach manager works with teachers or attends a subject matter meeting or sits down with the special education leader to see what strategies work best with which students. The coach manager is reimbursed as a regular substitute.

We want to start a program—where do we begin?
Keep checking the website. Coming soon is the story of how one middle school in New Jersey came to visit our program, liked what they saw, and went back to Metuchen and started their own Writers’ Room Program.