Who We Are


The Elementary Teachers Network (ETN) collaborated with school communities to support teachers in all aspects of their daily work with children. ETN placed the work of the person - the child, teacher, parent - at the center of its activities and forums. Participants used inquiry frameworks, including the Prospect Descriptive Processes, to investigate teaching and learning and to describe children's work in order to develop classrooms and curricula that were responsive to children's interests and needs.


The Elementary Teachers Network was founded in 1990 by teachers from the New York City Writing Project interested in developing useful classroom-based literacy assessments to inform their ongoing work with children. The program ended its affiliation with the ILS in 2016.

Funded initially by the Aaron Diamond Foundation, ETN began as a partnership with the Centre for Language in Primary Education (London, England); the Center for Collaborative Education, New York City's former site of the Coalition for Essential Schools; New Visions for Public Schools (then called the Fund for New York City Public Education); and the Center for Educational Options at City College of the City University of New York. At its inception ETN staff introduced teachers to a particular literacy assessment framework, the Primary Language Record, but over the years the program broadened its focus. Today ETN collaborates with school communities to support teachers in all aspects of their daily work with children.


One of ETN's fundamental goals is to introduce teachers to ideas and teaching practices grounded in the view that children's capacities expand in classrooms rich in a range of language and literacy opportunities.

ETN seeks to develop with teachers classrooms where the diverse ways that children approach their work endeavors are valued, respected, and used. In such classrooms, teachers will provide ample and ongoing opportunities for children to use language to explore, question, and construct knowledge through their work with a variety of media and materials as children build, draw, read, write, and engage in conversations about natural phenomena, ideas, and subjects.


ETN's work is based on several beliefs about learning and children's language and literacy development:

  • Children benefit most and show demonstrable achievement from extended and meaningful opportunities to read write, speak and listen;
  • Children develop fluency and versatility when they have opportunities to read, write, speak, and listen for a variety of purposes;
  • Children deepen and extend their literacy abilities when they can draw upon a rich array of materials;
  • Children, through their work and behaviors, offer adults information needed to support their development; and
  • Children's learning can be supported through teaching that encourages a connection to their interests, backgrounds, languages, families, and communities.

Approach to Professional Development

ETN organizes seminars within schools where staff and families can work together to build common language and reflect on the life of the school through the study of children's, teachers' and families' work.

All of ETN's study groups, courses, and seminars are inquiry-based. Participants in these groups explore and conduct investigations on matters of concern to the school or group. Topics for these investigations have included:

  • Classroom provisioning and materials
  • Project time and choice
  • Art and literacy
  • Blocks and clay
  • Constructing a school-wide literacy policy
  • Shaping a school-wide policy for determining grade grouping
  • Re-examining a school-wide literacy policy
  • English language learning across the grades
  • Developing language and literacy rich classroom environments
  • Reading and writing in the content areas
  • The place and function of care in a school
  • The role of gender in families and the school
  • Homework practices and policies

In conducting these investigations, participants draw on documentation of children's, teachers', and parents' work, their own experiences, and readings from the particular field of study.