Over 1.8 million nonprofits and charities for donors, volunteers and funders

2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Community Alliance for Learning

Claim This Nonprofit

More Info

Add to Favorites

Share this Nonprofit

Donate

Volunteering Oportunities

Nonprofit Overview

Mission: 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.

Results: 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.

Programs: 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.

Community Stories

28 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Terri54

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

jkodish

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

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!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!!!

Board Member

Rating: 5

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!

Previous Stories
21

Board Member

Rating: 5

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.

Marilyn44

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had a great relationship with my students and learned a lot.

Jane73

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been in education at the university level and have seen what a huge difference writing preparedness makes in a student's ability to succeed. This program takes students who might not have made it out of high school and helps them graduate-- and even go on to college! The motivation that comes from the one-on- one coaching and genuine interest in the student is what is unique in this program. It is grass-roots, hands-on change , happening person to person every day. Very impressive!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

WriterCoach is an amazing experience. I'm starting my third year as a coach in the Oakland schools. I have such respect for the students and teachers I've worked with; they get me up and out to help do my part for the next generation.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am beginning my 7th year as a writer coach and nothing in my life has equaled or surpassed the great sense of satisfaction I get from working with students on their writing projects. The one on one, multiple times per year approach results in an undeniable positive impact on the students (and on the coaches as well). It is a WIN-WIN for us all. The organization has a wonderful sense of integrity and dedication that I am very, very proud to be part of.

Kent Wright

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There are a few key aspects of Writer Coach Connection (aside from the great feeling you get from working with the students) that make it THE best volunteer experience I've had.

I've been coaching for 10 plus years, since the very beginning. My original motivation was not so pure: my kid was going to middle school, and I wanted to be on campus to see what the vibes were like. Luckily, we have different last names, so only his closest friends knew the connection.

Anyway, the great thing about Writer Coach Connection is this: EVERY child receives coaching, so no one is stigmatized as a "dummy" AND, interestingly, the students deemed proficient receive feedback that has more meaning than an "A" and "Great job." Secondly, every coach receives training with a group of peers, so you can share tips, anxieties, feedback, and the like. Thirdly, every teacher receives training, so that you know when you enter the classroom, there has already been buy in. Fourth, each site has a paid coordinator or team of them, so you as a volunteer have merely to show up, get your assignment, and find your students, with all the logistics handled by someone else. You know your schedule practically for the entire year, so you can swap out days with others, plan your life, that sort of thing. Lastly, the program is evaluated by the students and teachers every year, so we get information about what is working and what isn't working and make changes where we can.

As for the doing of it, there is nothing like knowing that you can devote absolutely undivided, non-judgmental attention for 20 or 30 minutes straight one-on-one for a child. You are not their teacher, you are not their parent, you are not their sibling, friend, or peer. Whatever they want you to help them with, you are there for them. They really appreciate it.

Shelli F.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Looking up from the table I see a dozen other pairs of volunteer writing coaches and students with heads bent together over books and papers and pens and pencils. The buzz of voices mingles and occasionally laughter drifts across the room. Magic is happening again...one student receiving the undivided attention of a caring adult who is listening without judgement, asking questions, encouraging discovery, and applauding whatever progress is being made - large or small.

Today I said to the Latina high school student that I have been coaching. "That's a really great idea!" She looked at me as though I had just landed from another planet. How long had it been since someone said that to her? Maybe never? She took that great idea and developed it into a paragraph that left her feeling proud and just a little more confident than she had been 30 minutes ago.

Come join us in making magic happen... This is a gratifying volunteer experience with an organization that not only makes a real difference, but trains and supports its volunteers at the highest level.

Maureen Dixon

Board Member

Rating: 5

“You are a special person. Step into my life full of help. You always make me smile by your help. … I know today is a good day because my coach is here.”

How could this thank you poem just not melt your heart, and make you fall in love—with a student and with a program that makes a student feel this way. This is the heart of the WriterCoach Connection—one adult and one student bonding over a writing assignment given by the student’s teacher. As writing coaches working one-on-one with every student in a classroom, from English language learners and struggling students to advanced students, we help students find their unique voices, develop their writing and critical thinking abilities, and expand their world of possibilities. I saw the light come on in this young English language learner’s eyes when I told her she was good writer and mostly just needed help with understanding the assignment and with vocabulary.

That was the fall semester of 2010, and I’ve been hooked on the program ever since. Now I’m a site coordinator for 30 to 50 volunteer writing coaches at our local high school, a trainer and a board member—I’ve definitely fallen in love.

We now have more than 600 trained community volunteers working individually with more than 2,000 students in middle and high schools in Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland. Obviously, I’m not the only one who loves the WriterCoach Connection and the students we serve.

1 CBS9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

WriterCoach Connection (Community Alliance for Learning's program) brings volunteers into middle and high school classrooms to help students with their writing assignments.

WriterCoach Connection helps teachers provide the 1:1 assistance and feedback they cannot manage with 30+ students per class. My personal involvement began when I volunteered as a coach at my son's middle school in Berkeley. The first student I coached had completed an essay about her mother. As she read to me what she had written, tears welled up in my eyes. Her essay described in vivid detail visiting her mother in jail. This student was writing from her heart about loving her mom and also about being mad at her for being in jail. From that moment to today, I was "hooked" as a WriterCoach Connection volunteer, donor and now Board Member.

It is essential that "kids write our future!" - our WriterCoach Connection slogan. Writing is life, it is power over circumstances, it allows every human being to give voice to what is inside: I believe being able to write is a human right. The volunteers, part-time coordinators, Board members of the Community Alliance for Learning have worked hard to build this non profiit service to East Bay public schools. We all believe deeply that WriterCoach Connection makes a significant, measurable and positive impact in improving the writing skills of middle and high school students in the East Bay.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I was laid off in 2002 and my son was at Willard Middle School, I heard about the WriterCoach Connection (WCC) from another PTA volunteer. My intention was to spend more time at Willard to keep an eye on my own son! Joining the WCC program was one of the most enriching and fulfilling activities of my life. The students can be challenging: yet most of them are eager for help with expressing themselves in print. I enjoy listening to their first drafts, providing constructive feedback, gently encouraging them to stretch their command of their prose beyond the colloquial and the cliche. I look forward to each coaching session and wish I could do more! Now that I am employed full time, I volunteer before the work day during first period at Berkeley High School. The WCC is an excellent, well run program - long may it continue!

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Over the years I have made multiple attempts to help out in public school classrooms. As much as they can use the extra manpower, they have a hard time making beneficial use of volunteers. It is a lot of extra work for a classroom teacher to manage volunteers,and potential volunteers are as varied as the students in a class. It's been great to volunteer with the Writer Coach Connection project of Community Alliance for Learning because they provide extensive training before you can work with students. And the group takes care of all the management duties. Having a group of writer coaches come requires some special attention from the teacher, but it seems fairly limited in comparison with the benefit for students. Also, a coach is assigned to every student and we work with them at whatever level they present to their coach. No one is singled out as needing a tutor, so there's no stigma disincentive for students to work with us. I have enjoyed some amazing interactions with individual students who would never have given me the time of day if I encountered them in a different setting. And it's very satisfying to see the impact on the students' work, whether just a kernel of trying harder, or the development of a real writer.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

At nearly the end of my second semester of working with this valuable group, I write to tell others the joys of the Writer Coach program. Working with students one-on-one offers each the opportunity to have someone really listen to their work, to offer constructive suggestions, and to (hopefully) afford them grade improvements and higher appreciation for the art of writing. However, some sessions proved frustrating because the time goes so quickly. One wonders how much accomplishment occurs in just 20 minutes or less. After serving at El Cerrito High School for the 2011-2012 school year, I plan to move to Richmond High School in the fall to assist in the start-up of the Writer Coach program there. Since I live in Poiint Richmond, I look forward to this new opportunity to serve my community.