Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Year in Education

USA Today reviews the year's top education stories in today's issue. They include the Spellings commission report on higher education, the SAT test scoring errors, and the ongoing debates about the effectiveness of NCLB. Nothing surprising, but it's interesting to see what the mainstream media views as important stories. Also in the papers today (in this case the Washington Post) is a column by Jay Mathews which is largely dismissive of the "Tough Choices or Tough Times" report (see below).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rediscovering the Liberal Arts

Chester Finn’s conservative Fordham Institute recently held a conference focusing on the importance of a liberal arts education. It’s strange and interesting to see those who have been such strident supporters of basic skills curricula and test-driven accountability suddenly decide that curriculum narrowing is a real problem and that there might be some drawbacks to “schooling conceived primarily as a service commodity whose priority is to serve the economic interests of students and those they’ll one day work for.” (Although they haven’t changed their spots entirely– “adding subjects to the test docket” is advocated as a key way to make sure the liberal arts get taught.) You can read the papers from the conference or watch a webcast here.

Recommended Reading

I’ve recently read two articles that have helped me think about where we are as a profession. Bob Tremmel’s "Changing the Way We Think in English Education: A Conversation in the Universal Barbershop” (English Education, October 2006) explores how tied our thinking is to “the principles, motives, and mechanisms of standards-based education” and then goes on the use the ideas of physicist David Bohm to suggest how we might move toward a new, less fragmented paradigm. The second article (cited repeatedly in Tremmel’s piece) is Bob Yagelski’s “English Education” in English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline (edited by Bruce McComisky, NCTE, 2006). Yagelski argues that English education “can serve a unique and vital function within English studies as a site where theory and practice inevitably converge and where the various subdisciplines of English studies can come together in the service of a project that transcends these separate subdisciplines.” Yagelski’s description of a possible future for English education is one of the more inspiring visions of our work I’ve read. Tremmel’s article is available online to EE subscribers. You can purchase the McComisky volume here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Report Suggests Scrapping Current Approach to Teacher Ed

On the policy front, the National Center on Education and the Economy has just released a report from their New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Titled “Tough Choices or Tough Times,” the report recommends (among other things) that current policies regarding teacher education “be scrapped” and replaced by state agencies that can contract with any group(s) they wish to provide teacher education. Also recommended are grade ten tests that would channel students into particular educational or vocational paths and shifting the “ownership” of schools from local school boards to independent contractors. Given the NCEE’s influence in the past, this may be a report worth looking at. (Note that only the executive summary is available on the web.) And after you’ve read the summary, you might also want to read Jerry Bracey’s critique.

CEE Colloquium

Thanks again to Ernest Morrell and Allen Webb for planning the CEE Colloquium in Nashville. This year’s theme was “Multimodal Literacies in English Methods Courses.” Presentations focused on everything from graphic novels to rap to new web resources. Those resources included Allen Webb’s new web site, One interesting feature of the site is a small but growing collection of syllabi for English education courses from a wide range of institutions.