Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Framed and Excluded

Les Burns critiques the role NCTE and CEE have played in recent policy debates in the new English Education ("On Being Unreasonable: NCTE, CEE, and Political Action"). While his analysis is nuanced and evenhanded, his overall conclusion is that the actions taken by NCTE and CEE in response to accountability mandates and other policy reforms have been "modest" at best. He also points out that when policy-makers have excluded NCTE from key conversations about English language arts issues, the organization hasn't necessarily served as an effective platform for protest:
The fact that non-professionals have successfully framed literacy policy discourse to exclude professionals from participating in their own governance seems like it should be considered the primary concern of an organization like NCTE. Does it make sense for the organization to publish journal articles and offer conference sessions based on the perceived and reported interests of various constituents when our field is being reframed without professional input and leadership?
My own view is that CEE and NCTE are considerably more politically engaged than they/we were five years ago but also that the influence of politics and governmental policy on our work may be growing even faster than our engagement. I'd be interested to hear from others on this.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Teaching in the the World of Wikipedia

Inside Higher Ed reports that the history department at Middlebury College has begun to prohibit students from citing Wikipedia in papers they write for class. This strikes me as an important issue for English educators because we not only set policies about research and writing practices for our own classes, we also teach about appropriate practices for writing from sources in high school. How do you approach Wikipedia? How about other online sources? Is it enough if students properly "cite the site" or should we be doing more to, in the words of the Middlebury history department chair, "[reduce] the dissemination of misinformation?"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Not the Usual Story

I've gotten so used to the crisis narrative that usually drives the media's reporting on schools that a piece like this one by Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi seems deserving of special notice:
Five Myths About U.S. Kids Outclassed by the Rest of the World

By Paul Farhi
Sunday, January 21, 2007; Page B02

The usual hand-wringing accompanied the Department of Education's release late last year of new statistics on how U.S. students performed on international tests. How will the United States compete in the global economy, went the lament, when our students lag behind the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong in math and science? American fourth-graders ranked 12th in the world on one international math test, and eighth-graders were 14th. Is this further evidence of the failure of the nation's schools?

Not exactly. In fact, a closer look at how our kids perform against the international "competition" suggests that this story line may contain more than a few myths:

Read the rest here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Promising Researcher Award

Guidelines for the NCTE Promising Researcher Award Competition

in Recognition of Bernard O’Donnell


The 2007 Promising Researcher Award Competition is open to individuals who have completed dissertations, theses, or initial, independent studies after the dissertations between December 1, 2004, and January 31, 2007. Studies entered into competition should be related to the teaching of English or the language arts, e.g., language development, literature, composition, teacher education/professional development, linguistics, etc., and should have employed a recognized research approach, e.g., historical, ethnographic, interpretive, experimental, etc. In recognition of the fact that the field has changed in recent years, the Committee on Research invites entries from a variety of scholarly perspectives.

Procedures and Deadlines

1. Entrance: Candidates must submit two (2) copies of a manuscript based on their research. Manuscripts should be written in format, style, and length appropriate for submission to a research journal such as Research in the Teaching of English, College Composition and Communication, Curriculum Inquiry, Teaching and Teacher Education, or Anthropology and Education Quarterly. Normal manuscripts range between 25?50 double-spaced pages. (Tables, figures, references, and appendices are considered part of the “manuscript.”) All pages must be on standard 8 ½" x 11" paper, must have at least 1” margins at the top, bottom, and both sides, and must be in a standard font. Manuscripts in any other form (abstracts, dissertation reports, reprints, or published articles, etc.) cannot be considered in this competition. Although manuscripts should conform to the publication standard of the above-mentioned journals, selection as a Promising Researcher does not guarantee eventual publication in those journals.

Manuscripts should be sent to: NCTE, Promising Researcher Award Competition, 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL. 61801, Attention: Felisa Love.

Manuscripts must be received on or before March 1, 2007. Accompanying all manuscripts must be a written statement verifying that the research was completed within the specified completion dates. This letter must come from someone other than the candidate (e.g., the major professor or a researcher knowledgeable in the field) who agrees to sponsor the candidate.

2. The name, current address, position, and telephone number of the entrant should be transmitted along with the manuscript to facilitate communication between the selection committee and the entrant. This information should be on the cover page only.

3. Judging: Manuscripts received on or before March 1, 2007, will be transmitted to members of the selection committee for evaluation. Results of the judging will be available after May 15, 2007, and entrants will be notified of the results shortly thereafter. Manuscripts will not be returned to the authors.

4. Summary of Dates and Deadlines:

Completion dates for research entered: December 1, 2004 -January 31, 2007

March 1, 2007 - Deadline for receipt of manuscripts (two copies)

May 15, 2007 - Results of final judging will be available

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Should Law Schools Be More Like Ed Schools?

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting piece about how law schools are trying to find a way to give students more "hands-on practice." It also suggests that there is a problematic similarity in curriculum from law school to law school. So does this mean law schools are in need of something like student teaching, and that diversity across programs is good? Maybe schools of education know something.
A Plea for Real-World Training in Law Schools
Carnegie Foundation report suggests more focus on clients, less on Socratic dialogues

While medical, business, and other professional schools frequently reinvent their curricula to require that students get hands-on practice before beginning their careers, law-school teaching has remained remarkably unchanged over the past century.

As a result, many students graduate with little experience working with real clients and an inadequate grounding in ethical and social issues, according to a new report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The report concludes that the Socratic "case dialogue" method that dominates law-school teaching does a good job of teaching students legal-reasoning skills but does little to prepare them to work with people or juggle morally complex issues.

"The gap between teaching students to think like a lawyer and act like a lawyer — especially in ethical situations — is greater than ever," said Lee S. Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation and one of the report's authors.

The curriculum is also extremely similar from school to school, which creates "a striking conformity in outlook and habits of thought among law-school graduates," according to the report, which was distributed and discussed at this month's annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.

(You can find the entire article here, but you'll need to be a subscriber or have access through your institution's library to see it.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Are National Standards on the Way?

Lynn Olson writes about the move toward national standards in Education Week. It may not be too soon to start thinking about the involvement of professional organizations like NCTE/CEE in the process. The first time around (when NCTM created their standards and other subject matter organizations received grants to follow suit) there was a certain amount of political maneuvering, but that was nothing compared to what we're likely to see this time. We should also start considering what impact national subject matter standards would have on teacher education.
Standards Get Boost on the Hill
Bills before Congress aim to raise the bar in states.
By Lynn Olson

The politically sensitive idea of increasing the rigor of state standards and tests by linking them to standards set at the national level is getting a push from prominent lawmakers as Congress moves to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act as early as this year.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee and a newly announced candidate for president, introduced a bill with Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., last week that would provide incentives for states to adopt voluntary “American education content standards” in mathematics and science, to be developed by the governing board for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the new chairman of the committee, introduced a bill Jan. 4 that would encourage states to benchmark their own standards and tests to NAEP, but would stop short of calling for the development of national standards.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Being Highly Qualified

Saturday's Washington Post included a discussion of the highly qualified teacher provisions of No Child Left Behind. If you've been following this issue, there isn't too much new, but it's a good overview. From everything I've heard, the teacher quality parts of NCLB are among the most likely to be revised when the law comes up for reauthorization.
For Teachers, Being 'Highly Qualified' Is a Subjective Matter
'No Child' Standards of Content Mastery Widely Interpreted

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 13, 2007; A01

To overhaul public education, the No Child Left Behind law required a massive expansion of student testing. But it also called for states to ensure that all teachers in core academic subjects are "highly qualified" to help students succeed -- an unprecedented mandate that has delivered less than promised.

The law, which turned five years old this week, has held schools to increasingly higher standards for student achievement. For teachers, however, standards meant to guarantee that they know their subjects are often vague and open to broad interpretation.

Legal loopholes and uneven implementation by states and the U.S. Department of Education have diluted the law's impact on the teaching workforce, some education experts say. They say that meeting the standards of quality is more about shuffling paper than achieving two vital goals: ensuring that teachers are prepared to help students succeed and reducing the teacher talent gap between rich and poor schools.

"Meeting the qualifications has become an exercise in bureaucratic compliance," said Andrew J. Rotherham, a member of the Virginia Board of Education and a former education adviser in the Clinton administration. "It's not a process that gets at the fundamental issues of quality or effectiveness." Congress may soon tackle those issues as it considers renewing the law.

Read the rest here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Darling-Hammond on Teacher Quality

From Education Week, January 10, 2007:

A Marshall Plan for Teaching
What It Will Really Take to Leave No Child Behind

By Linda Darling-Hammond

Views about the No Child Left Behind Act are currently as divided as Berlin before the wall came down. But whatever one thinks about the 5-year-old federal law, it’s clear that developing more-skillful teaching is a sine qua non for attaining higher and more equitable achievement for students in the United States. Without teachers who have sophisticated skills for teaching challenging content to diverse learners, there is no way that children from all racial and ethnic, language, and socioeconomic backgrounds will reach the high academic standards envisioned by the law. For this reason, one of the most important aspects of the No Child Left Behind legislation is its demand for a “highly qualified” teacher for every child.

Research indicates that expert teachers are the most important—and the most inequitably distributed—school resource. In the United States, however, schools serving more than 1 million of our highest-need students are staffed by a parade of underprepared and inexperienced teachers who know little about effective instruction, and even less about teaching English-language learners and students with disabilities. Many of these teachers enter the classroom with little training and leave soon after, creating greater instability in their wake. Meanwhile, affluent students receive teachers who are typically better prepared than their predecessors, further widening the achievement gap.

Read the rest here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

When the Alternative Becomes the Norm

Lawrence Baines explores alternative certification programs in English in the December issue of Phi Delta Kappan . He describes the explosive growth of "NUCPs" (Non-University Certification Programs) and of "pared-down degrees delivered over the Internet" by for-profit entities. According to Baines, one in five new teachers in California now enters the profession through NUCPs. In Texas and New Jersey, it's one in four. One example of an NUCP is the LosAngeles Unified School District which, according to Baines, "requires next to nothing. That is, prospective teachers in the Los Angeles program can move from applicant status to full-time, salaried teacher without bothering to gain experience in an actual classroom, and the only courses required by the LAUSD are delivered in-house in brief seminars or online . . ." Baines also points out that of the five largest secondary English programs in the U.S. in 2004, only one was a traditional university-based program.

Online programs, some offered by for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix and some by traditional universities, are even larger. "For example," writes Baines, "the second largest producer of English teachers in Texas (behind Texas NUCPs) is the program at the University of North Texas. North Texas offers a traditional on-campus, field-based undergraduate degree in education but it also offers a one-year, accelerated, graduate program over the Internet."

My experience with understanding the alternative program landscape has been that just about anything can be called an "alternative certification program," so it's difficult to make blanket judgements, but the numbers Baines includes in his piece suggest that unaccredited, unaccountable, quick and easy routes to becoming an English teacher may be on the way to becoming the norm. The article is "Deconstructing Teacher Certification." Unfortunately, you need to be a Phi Delta Kappan subscriber to access it at the PDK website, although it's probably available in full-text databases through your university's library.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Donald Murray Dies at 82

News has arrived this week of Donald Murray's death. Here's the notice from the NCTE Inbox:
Educator, Columnist Donald Murray Dies at 82
Journalist, professor, columnist, and Pulitzer-Prize winner Donald Murray died on December 30. Murray's belief in the writing process helped revolutionize the teaching of writing and his columns drew a large following of devoted readers. The Boston Globe , December 31, 2006

Murray started the journalism program at the University of New Hampshire and taught journalism and writing at UNH for nearly 20 years. Read more about Murray's writing and teaching in "The Living Legacy of Donald Murray" in the January 2000 English Journal .

My own teaching life was transformed when Don spent a semester at the University of Wyoming in the early 1980s. I was teaching eighth grade at Laramie Junior High and attended a series of workshops he conducted at the university. He also visited my classroom. From him I came to understood the relationship between my own writing life and the teaching of writing to teenagers. Even now, more than twenty years later, there are things I say in class and things I do as a writer that I can trace directly back to him.