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.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Louise Erdrich to Speak at NY Luncheon

Janet Alsup who is conference chair for the CEE portion of the November NCTE meeting in New York recently informed me that acclaimed novelist Louise Erdrich (Love Medicine, Tracks, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, The Painted Drum, The Birchbark House) will be speaking at this year's luncheon. Get your tickets early!

Burdensome and Demoralizing

AFT president Edward McElroy was one of those who testified at the senate hearings on NCLB held Tuesday. AFT has been rather supportive of NCLB, so some of the language in his testimony surprised me:
It’s demoralizing for students, parents, teachers and communities when they know that their schools are making solid academic progress, yet still see them listed in the local paper as “not making the grade.”

At one recent town hall meeting on NCLB convened by the AFT, the comments of a fourth-grade teacher from Boston reflected this demoralization: “The entire reputation of our school hangs on one test,” she said. “It’s not about balanced curriculum, enrichment or learning anymore. It’s all about avoiding that ‘failing school’ label.”
Educators also tell us they are required to administer test upon test upon test, including school, district and state tests. This layering of tests leads to an excessive amount of what should be instructional time being diverted instead to testing and drill-and-kill preparation, which results in a narrowing of the curriculum to only those subjects being tested. Students should have science, social studies, the arts, history—and recess.
Let me be clear: NCLB in its current form is burdensome and demoralizing to teachers, and yet they continue to teach and continue to adhere to requirements that allow them to teach because they have chosen the teaching of children as a career. But it is unacceptable to ask them to meet yet another unproven federal requirement.

Teachers want to be effective. And schools must be places where teachers feel they can be effective. We ask too many teachers to teach and students to learn in conditions that frankly are shameful—in dilapidated school buildings, without the basic materials they need, and in unsafe conditions that are hardly conducive to teaching and learning.
You can read the entire statement here (pdf).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

100 Million Blogs

From today's Education Week:
NAEP Writing Exams Going Digital in 2011
By Lynn Olson

Starting in 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress will test how well students in grades 8 and 12 can write on computers, rather than with the old schoolhouse standbys of pencils and paper.

The board that oversees NAEP, called “the nation’s report card,” unanimously approved the change from handwritten to computerized exams as part of a new framework for the writing assessment adopted at a March 1-3 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

In 4th grade, writing will still be tested using a paper-and-pencil format in 2011, in part because many elementary students currently lack keyboarding skills and experience. But the framework encourages a computer-based writing assessment for that grade as well by 2019.

The National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the federally sponsored assessment, approved the changes to reflect the ways in which technology has changed the way people write and the kinds of writing they do.

According to the 2011 NAEP Writing Framework, 100 million blogs—online journals—now exist worldwide, and 171 billion e-mail messages are sent daily. Future writing instruction, it says, must take into account how computers affect both the writing process and the types of text produced.
The article concludes with a quote from NCTE president-elect Kathi Yancey: The framework "provides for a more rhetorical view of writing, where purpose and audience are at the center of writing tasks.” The framework also “invites students as writers to compose at the keyboard,” she added, “which provides a direct link to the kind of composing writers do in college and in the workplace, thus bringing this assessment in line with lifelong composing practices.”

You can read the whole thing here (registration required).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reclaiming the Education Doctorate

From Inside Higher Ed:
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council of Academic Deans in Research Education Institutions have announced a three-year campaign to “reclaim the education doctorate and to transform it into the degree of choice for the next generation of school and college leaders.” Officials at 21 universities that offer the education doctorate have pledged to work to redesign the degree. Currently, the Ed.D. is viewed as “Ph.D.-lite,” said Lee S. Schulman, president of Carnegie. He said that as part of this transformation, it may be the case that the Ed.D. should be replaced with a new term for what he termed the “professional practice doctorate.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

How's the Job Market Where You Are?

There's an article in today's Detroit News about how tight the job market is for teachers in Michigan ("75% of education school grads can't get jobs in Michigan"). I don't know what the overall numbers would be for new education graduates here in New Mexico, but for prospective English teachers, I'd say the market is at a state of equilibrium--there are about as many jobs as there are new graduates.

What's the market for new teachers like in your area?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Reading First

Good story about Reading First by Diana Jean Schemo in today's NY Times. Focusing on Madison, Wisconsin's decision not to accept federal funds for its reading program, Schemo's piece does a good job of making the conflicts around Reading First comprehensible to those who aren't educators or policy-insiders. Included are many interesting items, such as the exchange between Kathryn Howe of the Reading First technical assistance center and Madison school officials. Among Howe's observations was that "the city’s program lacked uniformity and relied too much on teacher judgment, [so] they could not vouch to Washington that its approach was grounded in research." So much for teacher judgement.

There's a problematic characterization (maybe caricature is a better word) of whole language in the opening paragraphs, but I think the negative depiction of the Dept. of Ed's top-down approach to reform and the questions raised about the "science" being promoted may outweigh that in the long run.

You can read it here (registration required).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

NCLB Hearing

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on NCLB reauthorization yesterday. The focus was "Strategies for Attracting, Supporting, and Retaining High Quality Educators." Some semi-interesting testimony(if you like that sort of thing). Click here to read it or watch it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

In the News

Three items this morning for your consideration:

Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier have started a joint blog on the Education Week site. It will be interesting to see them debate their differences. So far they've been agreeing more than disagreeing, but I expect that will change over time. The blog is called Bridging Differences, and unlike much content on the Ed Week site, you can read it without registering.

At Inside Higher Ed, there's a piece about the National Education Association's new plan to deal with the growth of adjunct faculty positions. The article provides an overview of the whole adjunct issue, including the positions held by AAUP and the AFT. (I'd be interested in hearing your comments about the role of adjuncts in teacher education programs.)

Finally, if you were fortunate enough to attend the CEE luncheon in Nashville, you'll want to know that Sherman Alexie's new novel is out. It's called Flight: A Novel and apparently deals with a time-traveling teenager name "Zits." You can read the publisher's information about it here.