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 http://www.mienglishstandards.com -- 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!