Advocacy provides teachers and administrators with the rare opportunity to stand up for beliefs integral to the core of good literacy instruction, curriculum development, and purposeful assessment. I’m glad to have this chance to represent the National Council of Teachers of English and the state of New Jersey during this time of educational change – a period in real need of advocacy for literacy itself.
As an advocate, I have focused a great deal on the implementation of the national Common Core Standards, which was mandated by my state in 2012. The New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards were rigorous and drove national recognition for the achievements of our students. But the Core Standards present even greater challenges to both our teachers and learners. The greatest challenge (beyond the requirement for Standards-based online assessment) is that the Standards document is being widely misinterpreted as pushing a “nonfiction” reading schedule that will eradicate the teaching of literature. In reality, the Standards have spread the role of literacy instruction to where it rightfully should be – across all content areas.
Instruction in poetry, drama, and fiction is even more important than it was before, especially in ELA classrooms. I’m glad to speak out in favor of the Core Standards, as they provide strong scaffolding of the instruction of reading, grammar, decoding, and analysis of text. However, I’m also pleased to be able to speak out against the minimization of literature, especially in the ELA classroom.
Advocacy within NCTE has allowed me a forum for supporting Pre-K-12 strategies to meaningfully engage students with text. At this year’s NCTE Convention in Washington, I was able to meet with several teachers from our district to discuss the standards and learn about their implementation nationwide. We then returned to our large 7–12 department and, as a group, “turnkeyed” what we had learned.
This is the first in a series of posts we’ll run throughout the month of March to showcase ways in which NCTE members are engaging in advocacy for literacy learning. The perspectives in these pieces belong to the writers and not to NCTE as an organization.