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Community Alliance for Learning

Rating: 4.93 stars   28 reviews 2,590


1191 Solano Avenue #6098 Albany CA 94706 USA


Community Alliance for Learning (CAFL), through its WriterCoach Connection (WCC) program, helps public-school students develop their writing and critical thinking skills. WCC mobilizes communities to support their public schools in this mission by recruiting and training community volunteers to work with middle- and high-school students one on one, in class, on their classroom writing assignments. We believe that clear writing and critical thinking are essential to students' success in school, in the workplace, and in life.


Founded in 2001 at Berkeley High School with 35 volunteer coaches serving 180 students, the program has expanded over the years and for 2014-15, 750 volunteer coaches are serving more than 2,000 students at 11 schools in four East Bay school districts. WCC has trained more than 2,500 community volunteers, serving more than 25,000 students with more than 175,000 individual writing conferences. Year after year, WCC has improved the quality of student writing, increased students’ ability to complete state standards-based assignments, helped raise students’ grades, helped teachers strengthen the writing curriculum, and given volunteers great satisfaction, according to systematic annual assessment surveys. (The 2013-14 WCC Assessment Report is available at writercoachconnection.org/results/html.) These annual surveys of all the students, teachers, and volunteer coaches who participate in the program provide a benchmark for measuring success. The students' and teachers' surveys, all of which invite written comments as well as numerical ratings, are designed to monitor perceptions of the coaches' helpfulness in key areas, such as organizing ideas, understanding what's working, and understanding the assignment. The coaches' survey probes their degree of satisfaction with their coaching experience and their training, and encourages them to express any concern or discomfort. The Program Assessment Reports, tabulated and analyzed by schools as well as in the aggregate, are overseen by Research and Evaluation Consultant Krystal Dong, Ph.D. Site coordinators and trainers as well as program administrators use these reports to monitor the effectiveness of the program and to identify new challenges at new coaching sites. These annual program assessments consistently demonstrate that WCC generates overwhelming support among students, teachers, and volunteers. Year after year, surveys show that WCC improves the quality of student writing, increases students’ ability to complete state standards-based assignments, helps raise students’ grades, helps teachers strengthen the writing curriculum, and gives volunteers great satisfaction, In the most recent assessment surveys, 93% of students responded that coaching was helpful, and all teachers, without exception, reported that coaching was beneficial for their students. Teachers observe that the program helps all students to become better writers, and that it is especially helpful to struggling writers. Wherever possible, WCC also compiles hard data, which demonstrates the program is helping to produce successful academic outcomes, from district-wide writing assessments, WCC's own writing assessment tests, and standardized English Language Arts tests. The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which includes a separately scored essay component, provides a strong objective measure of students' writing skills.

Target demographics:

WCC helps middle school and high school students develop their writing and critical-thinking skills.

Direct beneficiaries per year:

For 2013-14, 2,230 students at ten schools in four school districts raised their writing proficiency with 18,808 individual writing conferences delivered by 723 trained community-volunteer writer coaches. The program is serving additional students and teachers for 2014-15, with expansion to Kennedy High School in Richmond and within Berkeley High.

Geographic areas served:

WCC serves 11 schools in four East Bay districts, working with students in Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland.


WriterCoach Connection, the sole program of the nonprofit Community Alliance for Learning, trains community volunteers to work one-on-one with students, in class, on their teachers' writing assignments. Every student in a class we serve has an individual writer coach throughout the school year.

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Reviews for Community Alliance for Learning

Rating: 5 stars  

I have been a perpetual volunteer within my son's school district for 7 years. Each opportunity to make a difference in these kids lives has been joyful. However nothing has ever given me quite the level of intrinsic value as being a Writer Coach for WCC. As a former marketing professional in Silicon Valley, I saw firsthand how critical writing skills are in the work place. As I struggled and succeeded to hone that perfect promotional piece---often times working until two in the morning!. I wish I had someone to sit one-on-one with me when I was readying for career, to help streamline the process! Writing is hands-down among the most important skills to carry our next generation forward. WCC is a timely must have program! It's also helping me in my own professional goals, as I ready my first Novel for publication!

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Rating: 5 stars  

This will be my fourth year as a writing coach with WriterCoach Connection (WCC). I work with students in middle school and high school English classes. Coaching students with WCC is pretty high on my list of fun and meaningful things to do. The thrilling part is the work I get to do with students. But I could not enjoy that so much without WCC professionalism. They provide training, resources, awesome on-site coordinators who ensure my time is devoted completely to students. Great organization for the schools and the community.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I just participated as a writing coach in a Getting Ready for College event for seniors at De Anza High School. The event was well organized; the volunteers were offered training and materials ahead of time. I had two young women who had already begun to think about their essays but hadn't yet solidified their thoughts. As they shared their background stories each one was able to refine her statement and get more clarity for herself. They left the session ready to write.

I have been impressed with the training we volunteers receive and with all the resources Writercoach Connection has made available to us and to the students. I enjoy the interactions with the students as they work on their projects and gain confidence in their ability to express their ideas. I am eagerly looking forward to my second year of coaching.

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

I worked in university teacher training and student development programs for over 20 years, grappling with the problem of how to improve students' writing. I got involved with WriterCoach because it seemed like an easy way to connect with my local schools. Get trained. Show up for 12-15 classes a year. Help kids with their writing assignments. Simple. Now I'm also a board member. I've experienced the training, watched students I've coached grow in confidence and skills, and teared up over their thank you cards. I've experienced the WCC staff having to make tough choices because even with 600 coaches, more are needed to give one-on-one support to students who don't have adults helping them write a 5 paragraph essay. This month it's back to school again at Fremont High in Oakland. I can't wait!

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Rating: 5 stars  

I'm a perpetual volunteer, at home and abroad, and I find Writer Coach Connection/WCC/Community Alliance for Learning to be the most effectively operated non-profit I have yet to serve. As a coach at two schools for the past 3 years I look forward to each coaching day and come away feeling well rewarded for my time invested.

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Rating: 4 stars  

I'm a fairly new coach, and my perspective will change as I gain more experience. To date I'm very impressed with the dedication of the staff and volunteers, and the project's extraordinary commitment to serving middle and high school students in schools across the east bay. The project has produced a wealth of resources (posted on the website, provided in training and at school sites) so the volunteer coaches receive good training and support.
I expect I'll increase my rating to 5 in a future review, but, at the moment, I'm lacking confidence in my coaching techniques. At times I've felt a need for more mentoring (a coach to coach volunteers!), but I expect I can get the help if I just ask!

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Rating: 5 stars  

I have worked for many non-profits over the years and I can say without hesitation that WriterCoach Connection is one of the best. WCC stays focused and true to its mission to bring individualized writer coaching into the East Bay public schools. As a result, the program has been highly effective. We know this from quantitative assessments and we know this because our kids tell us so! Speaking of the kids, it's also a lot of fun. I've been a volunteer for the past couple years now and would strongly recommend the organization.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

After many years of volunteering for a variety of nonprofit organizations, I felt like I had discovered a gold mine when I found this program. The structure is designed to support volunteers in every way possible so we are prepared to maximize the impact we can have as we work with students. Volunteers, teachers, students, and school administrators all reap the benefits of this professionally run program that has consistently demonstrated results. You too can become a writer coach!!!

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Rating: 5 stars  

I'm a volunteer as well as a board member, just to be clear. (Your form only let me pick one category.) And one of the things I love about WriterCoach Connection (CAFL's in-school writing support program) is that it is the best volunteer experience I've ever had in a public school. Our work is closely coordinated with the teacher's plans, so that when we show up, the teachers are ready -- the students are ready -- the volunteers are prepped with advance notice of the writing project -- and everybody works together smoothly. It's rare to find a school volunteer program that makes such efficient (not to mention rewarding) use of volunteer time. It means we can draw on a wide range of volunteers -- students, working people, as well as retirees -- because they can do valuable work with a very manageable time commitment.

And besides, I love showing kids the joy of writing!

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

21 people found this review helpful

I've described myself as a board member in the interest of full disclosure -- but I began working with WriterCoach Connection as a volunteer in 2002 and continue to do so. Volunteers do all the real work of WCC; we're not just helpers, we carry out WCC's mission. We work one on one with middle and high school students, on their writing assignments, during English classes. The kids (who each get 8-10 sessions a year with a volunteer) blossom with this kind of attention and encouragement; they learn that they do have something worth saying, and that they really can say it in writing! Even the surliest teenagers have been known to say "Thanks" -- voluntarily. The organization provides terrific training, ongoing support, and real appreciation for its volunteers. And I've found that helping kids to think through their writing has helped me to do the same. (Why didn't I have this help when I was in high school??) It's the most rewarding work I've done.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the responses from kids I've worked with: the satisfaction they feel in getting a piece of writing say what they want it to say. (I've also seen the professional assessments of the program's impact on writing performance.)

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Actually, I sort of do run this organization, as chair of the board. I am working on reaching out to the 350 volunteers, trying to involve them in more aspects of the organization (fundraising, publicity, etc.)

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the way it uses the best talents of its volunteers ... puts them to work right away ... respects their time and their abilities ... they do the core work of the organization; staff is just there to coordinate.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

varied, smart, thoughtful, creative, and showed me that there are many, many ways to talk to a teenager.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand to more middle and high schools in Oakland, where it is running a pilot program in one high school. (Well, with $10 million, maybe even Richmond??)

Ways to make it better...

teachers gave more interesting writing assignments.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

fundraising in a time when schools are so tight for money. Figuring out how to make the program work in a variety of schools and school districts.

One thing I'd also say is that...

Many of our volunteers return year after year, and we are incredibly grateful that they do.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


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Rating: 5 stars  

I became a volunteer 14 1/2 years ago and later a pro bono member of the training staff. Though I no longer live in WriterCoach territory, I remain a staunch financial supporter and cheerleader for the program. Its leadership is talented and dedicated and its vision is much needed---currently I'm doing my best to share what I've learned through WCC at San Pasqual H.S. in Escondido,CA.

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