Friday, November 09, 2007

Not Again

If you were around in 1974 or if you've read James Moffett's Storm in the Mountains, , Kanawha County, West Virginia will ring a bell. From Teacher Magazine:

W. Va. Book Ban Intensifies

The Kanawha County Board of Education wants a closer look at a possible rating system for school reading materials, a suggestion that was brought up after parents objected to graphic violence in two Pat Conroy books.

"Beach Music" and "The Prince of Tides" were suspended from two English classes at Nitro High School earlier this fall. Committees were formed to read each book separately and make recommendations to the board.

The first committee that read "Beach Music" voted to allow the book and its discussions back into the system, but the board did not act on the recommendation Monday.

Instead, board member Bill Raglin asked that county guidelines on reading materials, including suggestions about alternative reading choices and the book rating system, be formally written into county policy "so that we don't have to go through this five or six years from now," he said.

To the dismay of both book opponents and Nitro teachers and students who anticipated a victory, Judy Gillian, the language arts curriculum specialist for Kanawha County schools, was told to report back to the board on Dec. 13 after the proposed language was written.

Parents suggested the rating system after the books were suspended. It would include every language arts book a teacher uses and involve advisory labels placed on books that show content for violence, language, sexual content or adult situations, Gillian said.

"This is not the movie industry," said Nitro teacher Steve Shamblin. "You can tell what's in a book by opening a book and reading it."

Read the rest here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

CEE Member in the News

I finally got around to reading the recent article about Teach for America in the online magazine Slate and was pleased to see CEE member Deborah Appleman quoted at some length:
Deborah Appleman, the chairwoman of education studies at Carleton College, shadowed a former student of hers through the summer training of TFA's first class in 1990. She came away disappointed and has been been a persistent critic ever since. She discourages her students from applying and refuses to write letters of recommendation for them.
Critics like Appleman . . . say that TFA's premise—that corps members can succeed without substantial training in the classroom—is "insulting" to professionally trained teachers. Without such training, she's convinced, TFA teachers often disserve their students, and themselves, because their struggles discourage them from staying in teaching. Too high a share (30 percent that first year, 12 percent on average overall) leave before completing their two-year commitment, Appleman argues.
You might also want to take a look at Barnett Berry's blog post at District Administrator in which he does the math:
Lincoln Caplan, who penned the Slate exposé of TFA, reports that over 15 years the non-profit has spent $500 million (30 percent from the government) to recruit a few thousand teachers who will remain in the classroom no more than two years. (Caplan’s investigation reveals that over a decade and a half about 8,000 TFA recruits remain in education, with no more than one-half actually teaching children.) It has been difficult to get the accurate numbers on TFA, but it looks like Caplan's research would signify that TFA is spending about $125,000 per teacher!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Framing Dropouts

There were stories in newspapers across the country yesterday about an Associated Press/Johns Hopkins University analysis of Department of Education data about high school completion rates. The term the Johns Hopkins researcher uses for schools that graduate fewer than sixty percent of their freshman class is "dropout factory," which newspaper headline writers love. You can read the AP story here and see an interactive map that shows where the schools are located here. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a problem with the metaphor.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NCATE and Social Justice

NCATE published some new material about the "social justice" controversy on its website yesterday (NCATE Defines Professional Dispositions as used in Teacher Education; Issues Call for Action). Maybe I haven't been following this closely enough, but I don't understand what just happened. Can someone explain it?

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Licensure Test in California

Does anybody know any of the inside story about this? Is it a positive development? Are there implications related to accreditation? From Teacher Magazine:

Calif. Approves Teacher Test

California has given the nod to a rigorous assessment created by teacher colleges that requires aspiring educators to show students are learning before they earn their preliminary licenses.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing this month approved the Performance Assessment for California Teachers, or PACT, developed by a consortium of 30 teacher education programs in the state. Led by Stanford University, the group includes colleges in the University of California and California State University systems, and other private and independent schools.

Starting next school year, all teacher-candidates will have to pass a performance assessment before they can get their teaching credentials. A state law passed in 1998 requires such evaluations take place, but a lack of state funding delayed implementation.


PACT . . . occurs mainly during student-teaching, when candidates are expected to put together extensive, subject-specific portfolios, similar to those that teachers seeking national-board certification create, though on a smaller scale.

“In their [lesson] plans, they have to describe how to take the needs of special education students and English-language-learners into account,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and one of the founders of the consortium.

Every day, candidates reflect and write about the day’s teaching experience, analyze what students learned, what they didn’t, and consider changes to help students who didn’t master the materials.

“It is a much more holistic assessment, a deeper assessment of teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, a deeper assessment of student learning and teacher response to student learning,” said Ms. Darling-Hammond.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Scientifically-Based Research" Reconsidered

Here's an interesting story about how the use of the term "scientifically-based research" in NCLB is being debated behind the scenes. From Education Week:

Scientific’ Label in Law Stirs Debate

Proposals could reduce focus on randomized experiments

By Debra Viadero

While other ideas for revamping the No Child Left Behind Act are taking center stage, a quiet debate is unfolding over proposals to tinker with the law’s definition of what constitutes “scientifically based research” in education.

The phrase is one of the most oft-repeated in the lengthy text of the nearly 6-year-old law. Sprinkled through the federal education statute more than 100 times, the references to “scientifically based research” require educators to rely on such studies in choosing everything from approaches to reading instruction to anti-drug programs for students. And that’s not to mention the law’s use of such related terms as “evidence-based” research.

But the legislative definition of “scientifically based research,” which favors randomized or experimental studies over other kinds of research in determining what works in schools, has also been criticized for promoting a narrow view of educational scholarship.

Leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee, in a draft proposal for reauthorizing the NCLB law circulating since late summer, would tone down that emphasis on scientific experiments by stipulating that studies aimed at determining whether an educational program or practice works may include—but are not limited to—random-assignment experiments.

More here (registration required):

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Study on Public Schools, Private Schools

There's a new public schools vs. private schools study out today from the Center on Education Policy.
Public High School Students Do As Well As Private School
Students, Report Finds

No Difference Found Between the Academic Performance or
College-Going Rates of Public and Private School Students

WASHINGTON—October 10, 2007—Contradicting decades of research, a new report finds that, once family background characteristics are taken into account, low-income students attending public urban high schools generally performed as well academically as students attending private high schools. The report, issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy (CEP), also found that the students at public high schools are as likely to attend college as those attending private high schools.

According to the report, students attending independent private high schools, most
types of parochial high schools, and public high schools of choice performed no better
on achievement tests in math, reading, science, and history than students attending
traditional public high schools. In addition, students attending any type of private high school were no more likely to attend college than those attending traditional public high schools.

The report also finds that young adults who had attended any type of private high
school were no more likely to enjoy job satisfaction or to be engaged in civic activities at age 26 than those who had attended traditional public high schoo

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fundamentally Flawed

Diane Ravitch, who was a pretty energetic cheerleader for NCLB during its first few years, has changed her mind. From the NY Times:
October 3, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Get Congress Out of the Classroom

DESPITE the rosy claims of the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is fundamentally flawed. The latest national tests, released last week, show that academic gains since 2003 have been modest, less even than those posted in the years before the law was put in place. In eighth-grade reading, there have been no gains at all since 1998.

The main goal of the law — that all children in the United States will be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 — is simply unattainable. The primary strategy — to test all children in those subjects in grades three through eight every year — has unleashed an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing that has reduced the time available for teaching other important subjects. Furthermore, the law completely fractures the traditional limits on federal interference in the operation of local schools.

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

New Report Questions Current Definitions of Rigor

W. Norton Grubb and Jeannie Oakes have published an analysis of recent reports that attack American high schools. They argue that proposals for stiffer graduation requirements are simplistic and almost certain to fail.

From a press release announcing the publication of the report:
Grubb and Oakes conclude that this current push for “rigor” fails on several levels. The reports [proposing that high school be "reinvented"] don’t adequately consider the likely consequences of the policies intended to enforce higher standards. They also “have little to say about how [the] imposition [of these standards] will enhance student performance.” And most discussions in these reports focus on narrow definitions of rigor--higher test scores, more demanding courses, or both--while ignoring other conceptions of rigor that may be as valid, if not more so, to discussions of how high schools should better fill society’s needs.

Rigor, the authors explain, can also be advanced as depth rather than breadth, as more sophisticated levels of understanding including “higher-order skills,” and as the ability to apply learning in unfamiliar settings. These goals are largely neglected in the new “high standards” commission reports.

You can find it here.

TFA in the NYT

There's a long, fairly even-handed article about Teach for America in this week's New York Times Magazine. I don't have intimate knowledge about their work in urban communities, but in rural New Mexico, especially in Native American communities, my impression is that TFA has done more harm than good (mostly because of their teachers' failure to stick around and their lack of knowledge about the culture and history of where they're teaching).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CEE Member in the News

CEE member Janet Swenson is quoted in Alfie Kohn's commentary, "Against ‘Competitiveness’: Why good teachers aren't thinking about the global economy" in this week's Education Week. Read it here (registration required).

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Time for NATE

Andy Goodwyn at the University of Reading tells me that NATE has extended the deadline for program proposals for its April conference for two weeks. Information on the conference can be found on the NATE web site.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

CEE Members and NCLB

A couple of suggested items from CEE members on the NCLB front: Patti Stock points us to Linda Darling-Hammond's September 10 testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee and Michael Moore, as evidence of how difficult it will be to change some minds, directs our attention to this recent NY Times editorial. You might also want to look at the stand being taken by the over 300,000 members of the California Teachers Association (which isn't making George Miller happy). I'm now betting that the law won't get reauthorized until after the elections next fall.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The More Things Change

According to an Orlando Sentinel special report on Florida's merit pay system, "teachers at predominantly white and affluent schools were twice as likely to get a bonus as teachers from schools that are predominantly black and poor." Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

NCLB and More NCLB

Here's an update from Education Week's David Hoff on the back-and-forth that's been going on between Ed. Secretary Spellings and Congressman Miller about NCLB reauthorization. It sounds as though Miller is sticking to his support for multiple measures (part of NCTE's legislative platform). Notice also that the last paragraph of Hoff's post says the rest of the Miller-McKeon discussion draft, including the parts that address Reading First and teacher quality, will be out today.

Only Fifty Years?

The September 2007 issue of Harper's has a piece by Peter Schrag that's worth a trip to the newsstand (because it's not available online). The title should tell you enough: "Schoolhouse Crock: Fifty Years of Blaming America's Educational System for Our Stupidity."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

400 Pages in 8 Days

One thing I've discovered about trying to have a voice in federal education policy is that the time-lines to act are often so short that only insiders (or someone without a real job) can play. Today's example is the 400 page "Miller-McKeon Discussion Draft" about NCLB reauthorization. The public has eight days to respond. I'll say that again. The public has eight days to respond. We should certainly call our representatives and reiterate the points we've already made (using the NCTE platform as ammunition) but that falls far short of a coordinated calling and writing campaign that would focus on specific aspects of the draft. I guess this is why lobbyists think-tanks often get their way.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Grace Paley Dead at 84

News today that the wonderful Grace Paley has died.

"None of it happened, and yet every word of it is true," she once said of her fiction. "It's truth embedded in the lie."

Read about her in The Washington Post.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wondering About the Unit Plan

A former doctoral student who is beginning a new position writes, "Turns out I'm teaching
English methods and as I'm working on the course, I am wondering about the unit plan. Do you require one? I'm pretty close to not including it because I found them hard to grade and [students at my previous institution] had to write so many. I was thinking instead of having
students do more exploratory pieces, such as a project exploring a text with response and ancillary sources, etc. What do you think is essential in a methods course these days?"

As it happens, I'm teaching our methods course ("The Teaching of English") for the first time in about seven years myself, so I share her questions. What do you think? Is the "unit plan" a necessity or a problem? Does writing them help your students or hinder them?

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Teachers Have to Say

Here's an interesting report from PBS's News Hour on how "America's best teachers" view NCLB. You can read the transcript or watch the video.

"One test should really not . . . " (You complete the sentence)

From the Boston Globe:

Minority scores lag on teaching test

Panel to study failure rate, bias complaints

By Tracy Jan, Globe Staff | August 19, 2007

More than half the black and Hispanic applicants for teaching jobs in Massachusetts fail a state licensing exam, a trend that has created a major obstacle to greater diversity among public school faculty and stirred controversy over the fairness of the test.

The minority failure rate has been demonstrably higher than among whites since the test's inception nearly a decade ago, according to state statistics, which show that 52 percent of Hispanic applicants and 54 percent of black applicants fail the writing portion of the exam. By comparison, 23 percent of whites fail. Black and Hispanic teachers also lag behind white teachers in major subject tests such as English, history, and math.

The problem has become so acute that a state task force of teachers, professors, hiring directors, and state education officials convened last week to begin examining why minorities fare so much worse on the tests.

"One of the fallouts which is particularly upsetting in our expe rience across the colleges is fewer and fewer students of color are even going into teaching because word has gotten out that these tests are very difficult for them," said Sally Dias, a vice president at Emmanuel College in Boston who is a member of the panel. "One test should really not be a determinant of someone's career."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NATE Conference

The National Association for the Teaching of English (the British counterpart of NCTE) will be holding their annual conference April 4-6, 2008, at the University of Warwick (near Stratford). You can read more about it and submit a program proposal here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pelosi on NCLB

It's pretty clear that it's time to stop wondering if it will change and start focusing on what the changes will be. From

U.S. House speaker pledges to overhaul No Child law

By Eric Kelderman, Staff Writer

BOSTON - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told state legislators Congress would seek a major overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act, which states have protested as an unfunded mandate and unprecedented federal intrusion into schools.

"So different will this bill be from the original No Child Left Behind, that we're thinking of changing it's name," Pelosi said Wendesday (Aug. 8) addressing the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Shaking Up Summer Reading

This is from today's Christian Science Monitor. Note the comments from new CEE-EC member Alleen Nilsen!

High school reading lists get a modern makeover

Find out what recent bestsellers are taking their place next to classics at schools across the US.

| Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

Precious summer minutes spent poring over Shakespeare or Nathaniel Hawthorne may seem less than appealing to teens, but some experts say there is a slowly growing trend to infuse more modern literature into summer reading. As a result, the revered literary cannon, which includes such classics as "Hamlet," "The Grapes of Wrath," and "The Scarlet Letter," may be due for a shake-up. Glance at high school summer reading lists across the United States and you are likely to find more recent authors such as Alice Sebold, Walter Dean Myers, and even Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong alongside Dickens and the Brontë sisters.


"Ten years ago, these reading lists didn't have new books like that," says Alleen Nilsen, Arizona State University English professor and co-author of the textbook Literature for Today's Young Adult. "These are really popular new books."

So what catapults "Life of Pi" and "The Lovely Bones" to the elusive reading list club? Both are bildungsromans, or stories of young people coming of age. Ms. Nilsen says this theme is crucial for reading list inclusion, as youth need to feel a connection to the literature.

J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is an example of a long-lasting bildungsroman. The 1951 book was widely panned for its controversial subject matter, but it soon won the hearts of American teens.

"That was a book done for adults, but kids loved that book," Nilsen says by telephone. "Every year there are like 10 books that get compared, and it's like, 'Oh, this is the new "Catcher in the Rye." ' Of course, none of them ever are. But they're in that style – the flip, honest kid that's critical."

Nilsen says she understands why teens are frustrated with heavy assigned summer reading but says she's encouraged by the modernization trend. Her own granddaughter has chosen to read the young adult award-winner "Monster" rather than a difficult classic.

"It used to be, no matter where you were in high school, you got this list of classics that the value was to talk about them with other people, not to read them yourself," she says. "We're taking this lesson from the [physical education] teachers. Rather than making kids do these things they hate, they're letting them choose what they want to do, so that when they're adults, they'll keep exercising. Summer reading is the perfect time if we want to get kids to read the rest of their lives without us sitting over their heads and telling them what to read. Let them ... just lose themselves in a good book."

Read the whole thing here.

Total Change

Here's Hillary Clinton during last night's AFL-CIO debate. The coalition that has been propping up NCLB appears to be crumbling:
"It was an unfunded mandate. And part of it is that the Department of Education under President Bush did not absolutely enforce it and interpret it in the right way. So we need growth models for students. We need broader curriculum. We need to make sure that when we look at our children, we don't just see a little walking test. We've got to have a total change in No Child Left Behind."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Should AP Add African-American History?

From Inside Higher Ed:

August 7, 2007
Should AP Add African-American History?

The Advanced Placement program offers curriculums and testing in 37 areas — chemistry and calculus, art history and Latin literature, Chinese language and culture and European history, to name just a few. But there is no AP in African-American history.

Some school district officials have recently suggested that such an AP program be created — but the College Board is skeptical. College Board officials say their doubts have nothing to do with the significance of African-American history, but with the reactions they have received from college educators they have consulted. For a variety of reasons, the College Board says, college officials prefer to be teaching African-American history themselves, as opposed to having students enter college with AP credit in the field. If colleges wanted to have an AP offering in African-American history, the board would be open to the idea, its officials say.

The difference of opinion points to a number of questions that surround the AP program: Is its purpose to help students place out of introductory courses or to encourage them to study with greater rigor in high school (or both)? Why do some AP programs attract more members of certain ethnic or racial groups than others? Why are black students significantly less likely than the population as a whole to take AP courses? With many competitive colleges expecting applicants to have AP courses on their transcripts, should the College Board be trying new strategies to get more black students involved in the program?

Read the rest here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Support Your Michigan Colleagues

There's a struggle over the ELA curriculum going on in Michigan right now. Here's some information about it (and the address of a petition you can sign) from CEE Executive Committee member Allen Webb:

In Michigan CEE members and our own state affiliate, "MCEE," are engaged in a very interesting struggle over mandating curriculum and assessment at the high school level. Two things happened that set this struggle up.

First, three of our members, Becky Sipe (Eastern Michigan), Ellen Brinkley (Western Michigan) and myself were three of the five people who wrote, two years ago, the state-wide English Language Arts Content Expectations for high school. Although we had to meet a number of requirements not of our own making, we think we drafted a set of standards and content expectations that are the most progressive in the country, very much informed by what I think those of us in CEE would consider best practice instruction and research. This document, part of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) response to No Child Left Behind, was then reviewed by both academic reviewers (again two CEE members, Marilyn Wilson (Michigan State) and Sue Steffel (Central Michigan)) as well as teachers in the field.

Second, the state legislature, in a (low cost) effort to create "higher standards" decided to mandate that all students that graduate from high school in Michigan take a rigorous curriculum (the "Michigan Merit Curriculum") that includes, among other things, 4 years of English. The MDE decided that the 91 content standards that we created and reviewed should simply be adopted for these four years, with the plan to complete all 91 every year. Of course, we had originally rejected a year-by-year or course-by-course approach and the 91 standards were written and reviewed to be met over 4 years. Moreover, the MDE decided that every district needed to create common courses and common assessments for all of English classes, and they provided models with specific literary works. While the standards we wrote were very clearly supportive of teacher freedom to create curriculum and instruction, now we are finding many teachers telling us that they are being forced to follow rigidly the other teachers in their district or the state models.

Now MCEE is fighting back as strongly as we can. Using our listserve -- a listserve that has been very important to maintaining contact between all of the CEE people in the state -- we have over 55 signatures of English education professors in our state (including the presidents of MCTE, MRA, and MCEE and two former NCTE presidents) on a letter supporting that the standards be used over 4 years (not every year) and teacher freedom to determine curriculum, instruction, and assessment. We are disseminating this letter, and supporting materials to secondary English teachers across the state and have also set up a petition that allows them to sign the letter. We are finding that teachers are delighted by this support. All of these documents and information are available at -- a wiki site where teachers across the state can not only gain information and sign the petition, but also share their experiences with the implementation of the standards.

This process is demonstrating the value of a strong CEE state affiliate and helping us defend the freedom, creativity, and professional judgment of secondary teachers. You don't have to live in Michigan to sign the petition! Please join us!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Jim Cummins on NCLB

From Daily Kos:

Jim Cummins Demolishes NCLB’s Ideology and Practice

Two days before Jim Cummins stood behind the podium at the annual conference of the organization of California Teachers of Other Languages (CATESOL) in San Diego, the place buzzed about his coming appearance. Four standing ovations indicated that he did not disappoint.

Jim Cummins

No surprise. A treasured, no-nonsense voice in the world of second-language acquisition, during the past three decades, Cummins, now a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has touched the life of many an English as a second language teacher, inspiring thousands with a thoroughly grounded iconoclastic approach to the pedagogy of language. He has shattered myths, developed new theories and concepts, promoted innovations in the classroom, affected policy, and arguably done as much to shift the paradigm of language instruction as Noam Chomsky 20 years earlier did to shift scientific thought toward a paradigm of innate universal grammar.

Cummins is Canada Research Chair in Language and Literacy Development in Multilingual Contexts at the University of Toronto and a prolific author of books on second language learning and literacy development. His research has focused on the nature of language proficiency and second language acquisition with particular emphasis on the social and educational barriers that limit academic success for culturally diverse students. Recent books include Literacy, Technology, and Diversity: Teaching for Success in Changing Times, Language, Power and Pedagogy, Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society, and Bilingual Children's Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?

In a simultaneously scathing and humorous talk, "I’m not just a coloring person," Cummins laid out a case that what is happening now in the schools is not science but ideology, with federal and state policies imposing a pedagogical divide in which "poor kids get behaviorism and rich kids get social constructionism." In practice, that means skills for the poor and knowledge for the rich. That ideologically based approach ignores and rejects research into the way students learn, particularly how they learn language and how to read, he said.

More here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New York, New York

Conference on English Education Events at the 2007 NCTE Annual Convention
CEE LogoAt a time when teacher education programs and progressive pedagogy are under fire on many fronts, CEE offers members a vigorous and supportive professional community. Through the CEE events at the 2007 NCTE Annual Convention you can expand your professional network and gain access to the people, ideas, and resources that are shaping the future of English language arts teaching.

NCLB at the Debate

Here are some candidate opinions about NCLB (Richardson, Biden, Dodd) from last night's debate. (I'm doing this mostly to see if I can successfully put a You Tube clip on this blog.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Keeping Up with NCLB

If you're trying to follow the ins and outs of NCLB reauthorization, you'll find Education Week reporter David Hoff's new blog helpful.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Random Access

This is from an article at Education Week about the perils of doing randomized experiments in educational settings:

Study of Federal Upward Bound Program at Risk

By Debra Viadero

Congress is weighing plans to scuttle a $5 million evaluation of the national Upward Bound program for low-income high school students because the federal study calls for randomly assigning students to either the program or a control group.


“You can’t tell a kid, ‘You’re going to be in this life-changing program,’ and then say, ‘No you’re only going to be in the control group,’ ” said Susan Trebach, a spokeswoman for the Council for Educational Opportunity, a Washington-based group that represents administrators of Upward Bound and other federal college-access programs. “We already have some people telling us the kids they deal with are devastated.”

Monday, July 09, 2007


I spent the morning meeting with my colleagues in the English department (I'm in a college of education). We haven’t interacted very much in the past but hope to develop better ways of collaborating from here on. During my time on the Executive Committee, I’ve wondered if English/education relations is an important issue for CEE to attend to. Some members have suggested reaching out to CCCC and MLA in more active ways, but others seem to think there are better things for us to worry about (maybe because how English and education relate tends to be so institution-specific). How do you view the English/education connection (or divide) within the context of your own institution and/or within the context of CEE? Is this something we should be paying more attention to?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

NCLB Study Released

A new federal study on NCLB, conducted by the Rand Corporation, was released last week. You may not have heard about it because it was made public with as little fanfare as possible. Given that this is the first federal study to examine how NCLB's school choice and supplemental services provisions are affecting student achievement, you'd think it would have been unveiled at a big press conference. Why wasn't it? Here's the money quote, from Education Week: "Pupils who transferred to other schools under the NCLB choice provision did no better, on average, than they had in their previous schools, according to the study."

Read the rest of the Education Week story here, or you can find the entire Rand report here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

TFA and Teacher Retention

Barnett Barry who runs the Center for Teaching Quality has a thoughtful post at his blog about Teach for America and the tendency of TFA teachers to leave teaching as soon as their two-year commitment is up:
Finding a Better Way to Recruit, Prepare, and Retain Good Teachers

This past week both the Washington Post and CNN posted stories on Teach for America (TFA). Since its inception in 1990, TFA has done a great deal of important work to recruit elite universities’ graduates, entice them to teach in the most underserved communities, and encourage them to bring energy and commitment to school reform. Last year, 17,000 college graduates applied for the program, including 12 percent of Yale’s graduating seniors. Only one in eight TFA applicants was selected for the program. With our nation’s public schools needing to hire 200,000 new teachers annually, why not TFA?

However, TFA’s five-week crash preparation program and its two-year enlistment commitment do not work in the long-term interest of the children. Because of its truncated training regime, TFA recruits do not learn much about teaching literacy, developing and using new assessments, and working with students whose first language is not English.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Teacher Shortage?

Here's a piece from The Washington Post about teacher shortages. It seems as though we've been hearing the same story for years, but my sense is that the supply of teachers varies widely by region, grade level, and subject matter. What's the job market like in your area?

Schools Pinched In Hiring

Teacher Shortage Looms As Law Raises Bar and Boomer Women Retire

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 24, 2007; Page A01

As hundreds of thousands of baby boomers retire and the No Child Left Behind law raises standards for new teachers, school systems across the country are facing a growing scarcity of qualified recruits.

A labor force that for generations cushioned teacher shortages and kept salaries relatively low is disappearing. Three-quarters of the nation's more than 3 million public school teachers are women, a figure that has changed little over four decades. But in that time, women have become more educated, with more career choices than ever. So far, schools are not faring well on the open market.

More here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Support for Teacher Education?

This could be important, provided it gets funded at a meaningful level and doesn't have too many strings attached.

From Education Week, June 20, 2007
Senate Panel OKs Higher Education Bills Aimed at Boosting Teacher Preparation, College Access
By Alyson Klein

The Senate education committee today approved sweeping bills aimed at encouraging colleges to partner with struggling school districts to provide extensive classroom experience for prospective teachers, and boosting college access for disadvantaged students.

The teacher-training provision, part of a broad, long-awaited measure reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, would combine the three current grant programs that help states and universities prepare and recruit K-12 teachers into a single initiative that would enable colleges to collaborate with high-need districts.

Under the legislation, which the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved on a bipartisan vote of 20-0, colleges and districts would receive grants to enable master’s degree students to spend one year working alongside effective mentor teachers in high-need schools while the students took their graduate-level education courses.

More here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


From the Associated Press:
2,300 schools face 'No Child' overhaul

By NANCY ZUCKERBROD, AP Education Writer Wed Jun 20

NEW YORK - The scarlet letter in education these days is an "R." It stands for restructuring — the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law.

Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law's consequences begin to hit home.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Report on NCLB Assessment and Accountability

The Forum on Educational Accountability (of which NCTE is a member) has released a report on "Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning." It argues that changes must be made to NCLB's assessment and accountability system to make it more inclusive and fair. You can download the executive summary or the entire report. You can also read Margaret Spellings' response.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

CEE Election Results

The results are in!


CEE Executive Committee (four-year terms)
Gina DeBlase, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
Marshall A. George, Fordham University, New York, New York
Alleen Pace Nilsen, Arizona State University, Tempe

2007-2008 CEE Nominating Committee
Ken Lindblom, State University of New York Stony Brook
Lisa Schade Eckert, Montana State University, Bozeman
Crag Hill, Moscow High School, Moscow, Idaho
Melanie Shoffner, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Sharilyn Steadman, Florida State University, Tallahassee

Congratulations to all.

Urban Legend?

Half of all new teachers leave in the first five years? According to Bess Keller of Education Week, maybe not.

NCATE and Social Justice

This month's Rethinking Schools has the most detailed account I've seen so far about the NCATE/"social justice" controversy:

Do Ask, Do Tell

What's professional about taking social justice and sexual orientation out of classrooms?

By Therese Quinn and Erica Meiners

In the fall of 2006, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) solicited feedback on proposed revisions to its "Professional Standards, 2002 Edition." The organization responsible for accrediting colleges and programs for teacher education wanted to erase the phrase "social justice" and facilitate the de facto elimination of sexual orientation through the addition of various phrases and qualifiers.

While NCATE's deletion of social justice was clear and outright, the way it has marginalized sexual orientation is more complicated, or perhaps just really sneaky. Sexual orientation is included in the Standards' glossary definition of diversity, but the 2006 revisions added this text to the definition: "The types of diversity necessary for addressing the elements on candidate interactions with diverse faculty, candidates, and pre-K–12 students are stated in the rubrics for those elements."

Read the rest here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Reading First Budget Cut

From Education Week:
House Panel Votes to Slash 'Reading First' Aid

By David J. Hoff

House Democrats want to
put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.

In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.

But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.

Read the rest here (registration required).

NCLB Potpourri

There are several items about NCLB making the rounds this week. The one that's getting the most notice is the report from the Center on Education Policy ("Answering the Question that Matters Most: Has Student Achievement Increased Since No Child Left Behind?"). What the report actually says is that it's hard to tell, but with reports like this, the headlines may matter more than the substance: "Scores Up Since 'No Child' Was Signed" (Washington Post) and "New Study Finds Gains Since No Child Left Behind" (NY Times). There's also a report from NCES that focuses on how widely the proficiency levels on state tests vary (using NAEP as a benchmark). But the most important piece in the long run may be James Crawford's in Education Week, "A Diminished Vision of Civil Rights" (registration required). In it, Crawford discusses the shift from the term "equal educational opportunity" to "achievement gap":

What’s the significance of this shift in terminology? Achievement gap is all about measurable “outputs”—standardized-test scores—and not about equalizing resources, addressing poverty, combating segregation, or guaranteeing children an opportunity to learn. The No Child Left Behind Act is silent on such matters. Dropping equal educational opportunity, which highlights the role of inputs, has a subtle but powerful effect on how we think about accountability. It shifts the entire burden of reform from legislators and policymakers to teachers and kids and schools.

By implication, educators are the obstacle to change. Every mandate of No Child Left Behind—and there are hundreds—is designed to force the people who run our schools to shape up, work harder, raise expectations, and stop “making excuses” for low test scores, or face the consequences. Despite the law’s oft-stated reverence for “scientifically based research,” this narrow approach is contradicted by numerous studies documenting the importance of social and economic factors in children’s academic progress. Yet it has the advantage of enabling politicians to ignore the difficult issues and avoid costly remedies. If educators are the obstacle, there’s no need to address what Jonathan Kozol calls the “savage inequalities” of our educational system and our society.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

At the CEE Summit

Thanks to Les Burns for this photo of Friday's panel (Peter Smagorinsky, Cathy Fleischer, David Stewart, and Ernest Morrell) seated beneath a sunlit dove at the Summit. I'll send a free book to whoever comes up with the best (funniest, cleverest) caption.

Monday, June 04, 2007

What's in a Name?

One issue that came up near the end of the CEE Summit is our name, the "Conference on English Education." Is that the name that will carry us into the future? I know from discussions I've had with members over the years that some think it doesn't adequately reflect our focus on teacher education, some think it's not inviting to those who work at the elementary level (where the term "language arts" is more common), some think the word "English" carries with it a tinge of "English-only," and some think to lose "English" would be to lose our connection to English departments. A few years ago NCTE had a discussion about changing the NCTE name. They/we ended up leaving the name the same--National Council of Teachers of English--but the tag line that now follows--"A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts"--was added. (At least I think that's how it happened.)

So what do you think about CEE as a name for the organization? Change it or keep it the same or . . . ?

CEE Summit

If you want to know what happened at the CEE Summit, you needn't wait for me because Troy Hicks has it covered over at Digital Writing, Digital Teaching.

Friday, May 25, 2007


The cover story of TIME this week is about No Child Left Behind. The kind of people who read this blog won't learn anything new from it, but it's interesting to see how the mainstream press handles the story. As far as I can tell, there's not a lot of momentum on either side. The supporters of the law know they are shackled with all of its messiness and with its underlying blame-the-teacher bias, while opponents haven't been able to come up with a narrative that's compelling enough to convince those who aren't education insiders that the law is genuinely destructive. So here's a question for CEE types: What do you (and your colleagues) teach your students about NCLB?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting Serious About Assessment

About ten years ago, there seemed to be a great deal of interest in new assessments that would take us beyond multiple choice, beyond the recall of factual knowledge, and then along came NCLB and everything seemed to go backwards. But a piece in this week's Education Week ("Assessment in the Age of Innovation")suggests it may be time to get serious about good assessment practices again:
American students today are largely evaluated based on their factual knowledge. A recent study by Robert C. Pianta and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning found that the average 5th grader received five times as much instruction in basic skills as instruction focused on problem-solving or reasoning. Our existing assessment system tends to reinforce rote instructional practices emphasizing the drilling of facts likely to be on a test, rather than problem-solving and reasoning strategies difficult to capture in multiple-choice test items.

The new assessments will have to do the following:

• Be largely performance-based. We need to know how students apply content knowledge to critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical tasks throughout their education, so that we can help them hone this ability and come to understand that successful learning is as much about the process as it is about facts and figures.

• Make students’ thinking visible. The assessments should reveal the kinds of conceptual strategies a student uses to solve a problem.

• Generate data that can be acted upon. Teachers need to be able to understand what the assessment reveals about students’ thinking. And school administrators, policymakers, and teachers need to be able to use this assessment information to determine how to create better opportunities for students.

• Build capacity in both teachers and students. Assessments should provide frequent opportunity for feedback and revision, so that both teachers and students learn from the process.

• Be part of a comprehensive and well-aligned continuum. Assessment should be an ongoing process that is well-aligned to the target concepts, or core ideas, reflected in the standards.

Read the rest here (registration required).

Friday, May 18, 2007

In Washington

The House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness met yesterday to discuss teacher preparation. Washington seems to be fairly interested in this issue, but it's hard to tell where the interest will lead. As usual, the focus seems to be on using federal dollars to lever change. For me, the big question is how any federal moves will interact with the state licensing apparatus and with NCATE. Here's the whole story at Inside Higher Ed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rigor or Not

A new ACT report says high school courses are not rigorous enough. Here's the executive summary and the full report. Agree or disagree?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Collaborative MA Programs?

There's been some conversation recently on my campus about a master's degree program for experienced teachers that would involve work in the College of Education and the Department of English. (As things now stand, students can elect to do a graduate degree in education or English, but not a hybrid.) Is anyone aware of a good example of such a program (one that combines courses in English and education and maybe even one that's jointly administered)? Where is it and how is it structured?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Meade, Moffett Deadlines Extended

The deadline to nominate a book or article for the Richard A. Meade Award or to apply for the James Moffett Memorial Award has been extended to June 15, 2007.

The Meade Award is to recognize published research that investigates English/Language Arts teacher development at any educational level, of any scope and in any setting. What outstanding book or article have you read this year on English language arts teacher development (pre-service or in-service)? Take a look at the criteria and nomination process and, while you're at it, at the list of luminaries who have won the award in years past.

The Moffett Award is for K-12 teachers who need funding ($1,000) for a teacher research project that draws upon the work of James Moffett. If you know teachers who are involved in teacher research, please point them toward this opportunity. Here's the application process and a list of previous awardees.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It Just Keeps Coming

More on Reading First from the Boston Herald/Associated Press:

More conflicts disclosed in Reading First program
By Associated Press
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Updated: 04:04 PM EST

WASHINGTON - Officials who gave states advice on which teaching materials to buy under a federal reading program had deep financial ties to publishers, according to a congressional report Wednesday.

The report, compiled by Senate Education Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., details how officials contracted by the government to help run the program were at the same time drawing pay from publishers that benefited from the reading initiative.

Kennedy’s report added new detail to a conflict-of-interest investigation by the Education Department’s inspector general, which earlier had found that the Reading First Program favored some reading programs over others and that federal officials and contractors didn’t guard against conflicts.

The new report focused on four contractors who headed centers that guided states in choosing reading programs aimed at kindergartners through third graders.

It found the contractors "had substantial financial ties to publishing companies while simultaneously being responsible for providing technical assistance to states and school districts." That damaged the integrity of the program and illustrates the need for Congress to act to head off future conflicts, the report concluded.

More here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Levine on Educational Research

From Inside Higher Ed:
May 7
Filling the Void
“Form triumphs over substance.”

If Arthur Levine’s 92-page report, “Educating Researchers,” could be condensed into a sentence, that would be it. The report, released today, is the third in a series written by Levine, president emeritus of Columbia University’s Teachers College and now president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, where he has continued his inquiries into the state of teacher education.

Now he has turned his focus to the quality of research at education schools, and the methods and practices passed on to aspiring researchers in education doctoral programs — programs that, Levine told Inside Higher Ed, are more interested in the “form” of handing out doctorates than the “substance” of good research to back them up.

More here, or go directly to the report.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Running Out of Steam?

I'm probably being too optimistic, but I'm starting to think the testing juggernaut is running out of steam. Here's today's evidence:

House Votes to End Test Central to GOP's Shift on Head Start
By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 3, 2007; Page A07

The House dealt a blow to President Bush's chief early-childhood initiative yesterday, voting to end the standardized testing of 4-year-olds, which was at the heart of his efforts to refocus Head Start.

A Test Everyone Will Fail
By Gerald W. Bracey
Washington Post
Thursday, May 3, 2007; Page A25

The world of education is a world of tests these days. But why should tests be only for students? Here's one for policymakers, politicians and adults in general. Bet you don't pass.

And finally, from a column by Diane Ravitch in The Huffington Post ("Let's Fix the Schools"), this remark: "Let's ease up on the testing mania and put the emphasis where it belongs: on providing a great education."

Monday, April 30, 2007

CEE English Education Database

CEE is preparing to create a database of English education programs. What we have in mind is a web site where you could see which institutions prepare ELA teachers and/or offer advanced degrees for ELA teachers, what kinds of programs they offer (undergraduate, MA with license, MA, PhD, etc.), and some information about the programs (enrollment, course requirements, etc.). Two questions: Would you find such a database useful?; and what information would you like it to include?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Money Talks

From the NY Times:

April 25, 2007
Billionaires Start $60 Million Schools Effort

Eli Broad and Bill Gates, two of the most important philanthropists in American public education, have pumped more than $2 billion into improving schools. But now, dissatisfied with the pace of change, they are joining forces for a $60 million foray into politics in an effort to vault education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race.

Experts on campaign spending said the project would rank as one of the most expensive single-issue initiatives ever in a presidential race, dwarfing, for example, the $22.4 million that the Swift Vets and P.O.W.s for Truth group spent against Senator John Kerry in 2004, and the $7.8 million spent on advocacy that year by AARP, the lobby for older Americans.

Under the slogan “Ed in ’08,” the project, called Strong American Schools, will include television and radio advertising in battleground states, an Internet-driven appeal for volunteers and a national network of operatives in both parties.

“I have reached the conclusion as has the Gates foundation, which has done good things also, that all we’re doing is incremental,” said Mr. Broad, the billionaire who founded SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home and who has long been a prodigious donor to Democrats. “If we really want to get the job done, we have got to wake up the American people that we have got a real problem and we need real reform.”

Mr. Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, responding to questions by e-mail, wrote, “The lack of political and public will is a significant barrier to making dramatic improvements in school and student performance.”

The project will not endorse candidates — indeed, it is illegal to do so as a charitable group — but will instead focus on three main areas: a call for stronger, more consistent curriculum standards nationwide; lengthening the school day and year; and improving teacher quality through merit pay and other measures.

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Marie Clay Dies at 81

From the Los Angeles Times:
Marie Clay, 81; her plan for helping poor readers in first grade caught on
By Elaine Woo, Times Staff Writer
April 19, 2007

Marie Clay, a New Zealand psychologist whose efforts to identify and help struggling readers before they finished first grade profoundly influenced educators in the United States and other countries, died at an Auckland hospice Friday after a short illness. She was 81.

Three decades ago, Clay turned her ideas about early remediation of poor readers into a program that became known worldwide as Reading Recovery.

The program focuses on helping first-graders in the bottom 20% of their class catch up to their peers and maintain grade-level performance. It challenged educators not to wait until second or third grade to tackle reading problems.

More here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On Standards, Cut Scores, and Expectations

Here's a piece from The St. Petersburg Times about tenth-grade reading tests in Florida. It does a pretty good job of trying to untangle some of the complexities of testing. (Who would have imagined we'd reach a point where this is considered of interest to the general public?)

Suddenly, 10th-graders are FCAT flops
A moving bar makes failures of students who tested well once and still outrank U.S. peers.

Published April 15, 2007

Florida's 10th-graders look like terrible readers. Their FCAT scores are the worst in the state.

Yet those same students are among the best readers on a test that compares Florida students with their peers across the United States. They also score well on the FCAT math test.

Why the confusing results?

Blame an FCAT system that holds students in different grades to very different standards.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in high school, where the bar is highest. Only one-third of Florida's 10th-graders met FCAT reading standards last year. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of seventh-graders passed.

The disparities have consequences:

More than half of Florida's elementary schools earned A's last year, compared with fewer than 20 percent of high schools. Elementaries received $81-million in FCAT reward money. That compares with $23-million for high schools.

"We do not make kids dumber when they come to high school," said Jeff Boldt, the principal of Chamberlain High School in Tampa, which has earned straight C's since school grades debuted.

State officials acknowledge the standards are far more rigorous for high school students, but say they need to be to prepare them for college and work.

But some testing experts say large inconsistencies between grades and subjects can undermine confidence in the system.

Kristen Jackson, an 11th-grader at Tampa's Alonso High, has narrowly failed the FCAT graduation requirement in reading twice. But by another reading test, she can read as well or better than 96 percent of her peers nationally.

"I was actually crying when I failed," said Kristen, who earns A's and B's. "It tortured me. It was a horrific experience."

More here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

AERA Webcasts

AERA has some interesting webcasts from the AERA convention available on their site. They include talks by Deborah Ball ("The Case for Ed Schools, and the Challenge"); Stephen Raudenbush ("How Shall We Study The Cause and Effects of Classroom Teaching?"); and James D. Anderson ("Race-Conscious Student Assignment Policies and the 14th Amendment: An Historical Perspective"). It's almost as good as being there.

Virginia Tech Shootings and Creative Writing

One strand of the discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings has focused on the fact that the killer was a creative writing student. Some of the commentary on this matter has been poorly informed, but here's a thoughtful piece from Inside Higher Ed:

When Creative Writing Provides a Clue

Cho Seung-Hui, the senior Virginia Tech English major who apparently killed 32 people on campus Monday before turning the gun on himself, seems to have fancied himself a writer. Albeit one with grotesque tastes: AOL’s blog published two of his short plays Tuesday, one of which, “Mr. Brownstone,” features characters who fantasize about killing a teacher and “watch[ing] him bleed.” The second, “Richard McBeef” discusses pedophilia and concludes with a stepfather killing a 13-year-old boy soon after the boy’s attempt to forcibly stuff a banana cereal bar down the stepfather’s throat.

The tenor of Cho’s writings apparently did not go unnoticed. Ian MacFarlane, a former classmate who provided the plays to AOL, told the publication that Cho’s plays were “like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn’t have even thought of.”

“[W]e students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him,” McFarlane told AOL.

Nor did the creative writing faculty at Virginia Tech apparently fail to read between’s Cho’s typed lines. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Lucinda Roy, co-director of Virginia Tech’s creative writing program, had warned university police and officials about Cho. While Virginia Tech officials were sympathetic, the Post reported, they said there was little they could do in absence of a direct threat. “I don’t want to be accusatory, or blaming other people,” the Post reported Roy as saying. “I do just want to say, though, it’s such a shame if people don’t listen very carefully, and if the law constricts them so that they can’t do what is best for the student.”

More here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut: So It Goes

You've probably heard that Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. Here's one of my favorite Vonnegut quotes:
We have discovered that writing allows even
a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if
only that person will write the same thought
over and over again, improving it just a little
bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp
with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it
takes is time. (From Palm Sunday)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Software, Teacher Quality, and Frog and Toad

Two items from the new issue of Education Week:

Major Study on Software Stirs Debate
On whole, school products found to yield no net gains.
By Andrew Trotter

A long-awaited federal study of reading and math software that was released last week found no significant differences in standardized-test scores between students who used the technology in their classrooms and those who used other methods.

Representatives of the educational software industry immediately took issue with aspects of the $10 million study of 15 commercial software products, arguing that its findings did not mean that classroom technology had no academic payoff.

Scholars Suggest Policies to Bolster Teacher Quality
Approaches range from pay incentives to better training and conditions.
By Lynn Olson

While many scholars say surprisingly little solid evidence exists on exactly which public policies are most likely to enhance the quality of teaching, a new volume by the Washington-based Brookings Institution points to ideas that research suggests may be more effective than others.

Among the approaches highlighted in “Excellence in the Classroom,” and discussed at a forum at the think tank here March 28, are: selectively loosening up certification requirements for those entering teaching; targeting large pay incentives for highly effective teachers in hard-to-staff subjects and schools; redesigning professional development; and making it easier to dismiss poorly performing educators.

And an essay about scripted reading programs from the Spring 2007 Rethinking Schools:

'I Just Want to Read Frog and Toad'
By Melanie Quinn

One mid-September night, when I was tucking my 5-year-old son Eamonn in bed, the standardization madness came home to roost. With quivering lip and tear-filled eyes, Eamonn told me he hated school. He said he had to read baby books that didn't make sense and that he was in the "dummy group."

Then he looked up at me and said, "I just want to read Frog and Toad."

I am an experienced elementary teacher and college professor, with a long-standing disdain for "ability" grouping, dummied-down curriculum, and stupid, phonics-driven stories that make no sense. And yet here I was, seemingly unable to prevent my own child from being crushed by a scripted reading program of the type so beloved by No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A New Ed.D.

The Carnegie Foundation's project to reshape the Ed.D. begins (from Inside Higher Ed):
Envisioning a New Ed.D.

Lasting improvements to the K-12 school system may well end up starting in the classrooms – and so colleges of education are logical starting places for education reform. Yet, while teacher education gets plenty of scrutiny, a new, nationwide initiative goes straight to the top of the food chain in an attempt to catalyze change in the education of education’s leaders.

A new project to re-envision the education doctorate, or the Ed.D., at 21 universities nationwide grows out of the basic premise that there’s no clear distinction between the Ed.D., in theory the professional practice degree, and the more research-oriented Ph.D. in education — and, as a result, that the quality of the Ed.D. and of the education Ph.D. is not what it should or could be

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

YA Literature vs. the Classics

The old YA vs. the canon debate gets another airing in a long article in this week's Education Week. For the informed it may read as a bit of a muddle but for someone new to the debate it might serve as an adequate primer. One noteworthy flaw: they call CEE's own Janet Alsup "Jane."

Dark Themes in Books Get Students Reading
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Chanelle Brown hasn’t found much she can relate to in the classic texts assigned in her English classes at Evanston Township High School. A top student, the junior has toiled through The Odyssey, All the King’s Men, The Scarlet Letter, and other standards, she said, while many of her classmates at the suburban Chicago school have given up reading them altogether.

“The themes are kind of dead now,” she said, “and I don’t feel like any of the stories apply to me.”

But Ms. Brown is glad that teachers at Evanston High, like educators elsewhere, have been supplementing the canon with recently published books to provide a more varied, and palatable, literary menu for students. Such decisions, some experts say, can add the kind of engaging and relevant content that high school reform advocates have been calling for.

Nevertheless, the use of popular literature has run up against traditionalists, who fear it will dumb down the curriculum, and parents who object to the controversial themes that characterize many of the selections.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nominate Someone for a CEE Award

This is the perfect time to nominate someone for CEE's Meade or Britton Award, or to apply for the Moffet Award. The Meade Award is given to recognize published research that investigates English/Language Arts teacher development at any educational level, of any scope and in any setting. The Britton Award is given to encourage English Language teacher development, consistent with the major goal of CEE, by promoting reflective inquiry in which teachers raise questions about teaching and learning in their own teaching/learning settings. The Moffet Award (given in conjuction with the National Writing Project) supports teacher research projects inspired by the scholarship of James Moffett. You can find out more about each of the awards and about the nomination process here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

More on Reading First

I was going to leave the Reading First scandal alone because I'm not sure it's high on the list of issues most CEE members are interested in (maybe readers could let me know if I'm right about that). But then this story came along. Apparently the company that set up Reading First is also helping to evaluate it:

Group judging reading program set it up

© 2007 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A billion-dollar-a-year federal reading program that ran into scathing criticism over conflicts of interest now has a new one: The government contractor that set up the program for the Education Department is also part of the team hired to evaluate it.

More here.

Friday, March 30, 2007

MLA Responds to Spellings Commission

Here's a story in Inside Higher Ed about the MLA's new evaluation of the Spellings Commission report on higher education. Apparently the report focuses on how the Spellings Commission ignored the role of the humanities in student learning. Interesting comments from Gerald Graff in the text of the article and some responses to the article from Anne Herrington, Richard Ohmann, and others.

A Barely Passing Grade

USA Today has a report about a study funded by NICHD that "take[s] teachers to task for spending too much time on basic reading and math skills and not enough on problem-solving, reasoning, science and social studies." Of course it's the fault of the teachers. Who else could it be?
Study gives teachers barely passing grade in classroom
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
The typical child in the USA stands only a one-in-14 chance of having a consistently rich, supportive elementary school experience, say researchers who looked at what happens daily in thousands of classrooms.

The findings, published today in the weekly magazine Science, take teachers to task for spending too much time on basic reading and math skills and not enough on problem-solving, reasoning, science and social studies. They also suggest that U.S. education focuses too much on teacher qualifications and not enough on teachers being engaging and supportive.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, educational researchers spent thousands of hours in more than 2,500 first-, third- and fifth-grade classrooms, tracking kids through elementary school. It is among the largest studies done of U.S. classrooms, producing a detailed look at the typical kid's day.

The researchers found a few bright spots — kids use time well, for one. But they found just as many signs that classrooms can be dull, bleak places where kids don't get a lot of teacher feedback or face time. (Read the rest here.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dibels, the Bible, and NCATE

Here's a link to this week's Time Magazine cover story on the "The Case for Teaching the Bible." No talk of such a course here in New Mexico (none that I'm aware of anyway), although a couple of high schools where we place student teachers have long-standing Bible as Literature courses. Our English education students can take a Bible as Literature course as an option in our program but not many do.

The Washington Post had a long-story on the front page of the Monday edition on testing, including a sidebar about Dibels.

Finally, I spent a good part of yesterday in meetings about our upcoming NCATE visit. Apparently, everyone lives in fear of Standard Two these days. Any stories, thoughts, or advice?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Don't Just Ignore It, Kill It

See today's Inside Higher Ed for a report on a talk given at CCCC by MIT's Les Perelman about how he coached a student to get a score of 5 on the new essay portion of the SAT:

While many colleges have said that they don’t think the new essay adds much (and many institutions that use other parts of the SAT don’t use the writing scores), Perelman issued a “call to arms” for educators to not just ignore the essay, but to try to kill it. “It does harm,” he said repeatedly in his talk, which was illustrated with slides (received with chuckles and applause by the audience) comparing the College Board to snake oil salesmen. Mixing metaphors a bit, Perelman said colleges must “chase the money changers from the temple” of higher education.

The essay is harming students, Perelman said, because it rewards formulaic writing that views the world as black and white, isn’t based on any facts, and values a few fancy vocabulary words over sincerity. He also said that while most college instructors work to “deprogram” students from the infamous “five paragraph essay” they learned in high school, the SAT test reinforces that approach. Perelman and others noted that the problem isn’t limited to the time students spend actually taking the SAT, but that many students devote months or years of study with coaching services to learning how to write the way the College Board wants — and with students fearful that a poor score will hurt their chances of college admission, they focus on that kind of writing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More on Reading First

From the Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press:

March 23, 2007, 6:14AM
Report finds Education Department improperly backed aspects of reading program

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Education Department officials and their contractors appear to have improperly backed certain types of instruction in administering a $1 billion-a-year reading program, congressional investigators found.

The Government Accountability Office report supports assertions by the inspector general of the Education Department, who has released several reports in recent months into the Reading First program.

The program is a key part of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. It offers intensive reading help for low-income and struggling schools.

The GAO, Congress' investigative and auditing arm, surveyed states to get their views on the program.

In a report due out Friday and obtained by The Associated Press, the GAO states that some states said they received suggestions from federal officials or contractors to adopt or eliminate certain programs or tests.

Read the rest here, or you can go directly to the GAO report.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reading Recovery and NCLB in the News

A couple of items of interest in the news today, one from Education Week on the appearance of Reading Recovery in the Department of Education's "What Works Clearinghouse" and the second from the Christian Science Monitor about the politics of NCLB.

Education Week
Tutoring Program Found Effective, Despite Cold Shoulder Under Reading First
By Debra Viadero and Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Reading Recovery, a popular tutoring program for struggling 1st grade readers that has been a target of criticism in recent years from the Bush administration, has received a rare thumbs-up rating from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse.

'No Child Left Behind' losing steam
GOP lawmakers are among the biggest critics of Bush's school reform program.
By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Support for No Child Left Behind – President Bush's signature education reform – is fraying as it heads into reauthorization this year.

The heaviest criticism is coming from within his own party. Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate introduced bills last week that allow states to opt out of most of the law's requirements, while keeping federal funding. Backers of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) say that move would gut the law.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Influence of Charter Schools

From today's Washington Post:
Charter School Effort Gets $65 Million Lift

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 20, 2007; A01

The charter school movement, begun 16 years ago as an alternative to struggling public schools, will today make its strongest claim on mainstream American education when a national group announces the most successful fundraising campaign in the movement's history -- $65 million to create 42 schools in Houston.

The money, which comes from some of the nation's foremost donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would make the Knowledge Is Power Program the largest charter school organization in the country. KIPP, which runs three schools in Washington, has produced some of the highest test scores among publicly funded schools in the District and has made significant gains in the math and reading achievement of low-income students in most of its 52 schools across the country.

The announcement, several school improvement experts said, raises the charter school movement to a new level of influence, financial strength and public notice. The number of independently run, taxpayer-supported schools has grown rapidly, to nearly 4,000, since the movement began in 1991. But that counts for only about 5 percent of public schools, and most have been small and overlooked. With the KIPP announcement, experts said, donors will be looking for more ways to expand the most successful models and build large systems, as KIPP plans to do in Houston.

Read the rest here.
What role, if any, are charter schools playing in how English teachers are being prepared where you are? Do you place student teachers in charter schools? Are there particular issues related to working with charter schools?

Monday, March 19, 2007

New Teacher Preparation Guidelines Available

The 2006 edition of the Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts is now available for download and printing (as a PDF file) at the CEE site. Thanks to Lois Stover and the Standing Committee on Teacher Preparation and Certification for their hard work.

Middle School Matters

Elizabeth Bleicher at Ithaca College directed my attention to the series The New York Times has been running on middle schools. The most recent piece,"For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills" focuses on "changing theories of how middle school should be taught." There's also a multimedia slide show and some video (including teacher interviews). As usual, registration is required. (This story has been at or near the top of the NYT's most emailed items for the past couple of days, which says something about the public's interest.)