By Jennifer Fletcher

My earliest memory of ERWC dates back to the fall of 2004. I’m not even sure if I knew the curriculum by the name ERWC at that time, but I was aware that California State University was developing a new partnership with high school teachers and I wanted to be a part of it. I remember going to a workshop at Cal Poly Pomona, one of the first professional learning sessions I attended following the birth of my son who was about a year old at that time. I had been teaching high school English for around eight years and was ready for a new challenge.

It was exciting to be back in a room full of colleagues talking about ideas. There was a sense that something special was happening. There were tables around the periphery of the room on which were displayed intriguing reading selections from college English courses, and we browsed the selections while discussing the ways they differed from the traditional literature textbooks we used in our high school English classes. The texts and topics were fresh and provocative. The facilitators (one of whom I’m sure must have been John Edlund although I hadn’t met him yet) talked about rhetorical reading and writing–literacy practices I didn’t know much about. I also didn’t know my life was about to change.

A year later, after learning more about ERWC and helping to facilitate some of the earliest ERWC workshops, I was invited to join “Task Force 12,” the first iteration of what is now the ERWC Steering Committee. This time, I was returning to work after the birth of our second child. I joke that I’ve been in a committed relationship with ERWC ever since. My own kids are roughly the same age as ERWC, and I look back on those early years with a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the gifts and transformations that followed.

Celebrating 20 years of ERWC!

Two decades later, we’re now preparing to celebrate 20 years as an ERWC community. While the first edition of the curriculum wasn’t officially published until 2007 (ERWC oldtimers remember the “DRAFT” modules released in 2004), the roots of our multi-state literacy network date back to the summer of 2003, when John Edlund, a professor of rhetoric at Cal Poly Pomona, assembled a task force to create an instructional intervention that would prepare more high school students for college reading and writing. That original task force evolved into an advisory board and, later, a steering committee that now helps design and implement ERWC curriculum and professional learning experiences in five states: California, Washington, Hawaii, New Mexico, and West Virginia. In California alone, ERWC grade 11 and 12 courses have been adopted by almost 1,000 high schools. Our work has helped two generations of students (see the WestEd reports from 2015 and 2022 for the positive impact ERWC has had on students and teachers).

We couldn’t have reached these milestones without you, our ERWC family. The ERWC story has always been a story of community and collaboration. We pride ourselves on being a grass-roots initiative sustained by local educational leaders. We’re grateful and honored that so many of you have found a professional home in the ERWC literacy network, and we look forward to gathering as a community in June to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished together.

2023 ERWC Literacy Conference: The Anniversary Edition

This year’s “platinum edition” of the ERWC Literacy Conference will be a special opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and continue working toward the equitable learning outcomes we’ve pursued all along. The theme for 2023 is “Doing Language: Rhetoric, Identity, and Power.” We’re thrilled to announce Lamar L. Johnson, author of Critical Race English Education, as our keynote speaker. Please save the date for the conference in your region (June 20th for Northern California and June 26th for Southern California) and watch for the Call for Presenters and registration links to open soon. See the preview of the CFP below.

So happy anniversary, ERWC colleagues! We’re thankful to be on this journey together.

Please share the save-the-date flyer with interested colleagues.

Preview of Call for Presenters for the 2023 ERWC Literacy Conference

June 20, Sacramento

June 26, Pomona

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no time for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

–Toni Morrison

Theme: “Doing Language: Rhetoric, Identity, and Power”

What is an ERWC approach to language learning? Language teaching is an opportunity to be culturally sustaining while also developing students’ abilities with new forms of language in new contexts for new purposes. Our profession is engaged in an ongoing conversation about ways of “doing language” in the classroom and beyond inspired by the following kinds of questions:

  • How can educators work toward linguistic justice?
  • How can we help all students adapt and apply the rhetorical ways of “doing language” they bring to our classrooms to diverse contexts? 
  • What are the relationships among language, social identity, and power? 
  • How are language and learning connected? 
  • How is language development related to literacy development?  
  • How do language choices create particular kinds of connections between rhetor and audience? 
  • How does rhetorical knowledge help students understand social identity and power relations?

The 2023 ERWC Literacy Conference will address such questions by showcasing best practices for fostering students’ language development through a rhetorical approach to texts. We especially invite teachers who are using ERWC 3.0 modules with integrated and designated English language development to share what they’ve learned about how to make the curriculum and its culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogies work for their students. Sessions on specific language-focused activities aligned with California’s ELD Standards, multimodal composition, or course design are particularly welcome. Proposals may address any of the following topics:

  • Languaging, translanguaging, identity, and audience
  • Linguistic justice
  • Teaching language for transfer (including success on the ELPAC)
  • Language building through collaborative discussions
  • Civil discourse in times of discord
  • Language focus on literature
  • Crafting style for rhetorical purpose
  • Learning how English works
  • Building language-focused activities across the arc with the High Impact Strategies Toolkit
  • Fostering language awareness and exploration
  • Sequencing language-focused activities
  • Sample instructional pathways
  • Visual literacy
  • Language, UDL, and multiple means of expression and representation
  • Planning lessons with language in mind
  • Language, communication, and authenticity in the age of AI

Concurrent break-out sessions will be 75 minutes long.

Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and a former high school teacher. She serves as the Chair of the ERWC Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter @JenJFletcher.

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