Monday, July 30, 2007
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!
Friday, July 27, 2007
Jim Cummins Demolishes NCLB’s Ideology and Practice
by Meteor Blades
Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 11:49:56 AM PDT
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
At 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.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
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
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Read the rest of the Education Week story here, or you can find the entire Rand report here.