The National Council of Teachers of English has a long history of taking strong positions on the best practices in the teaching of literacy. It has a long history as well of voicing its opposition and proposing alternatives to educational reform based primarily on so-called “standards” of performance as measured by high-stakes testing. That approach has become the de facto law of the land as both state and federal government have pressured school districts and teachers to submit to accountability measures based on a narrow range of criteria.
In particular, the “standards” approach fails to include myriad conditions of education, including the gap between rich and poor, public support for education, and the day-to-day conditions of teaching. From the Reagan administration through the Bush, Clinton, and Bush administrations, key elements of educational reform have been ignored.
The consequences of the standards-and-tests approach have been exacerbated by the policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. These policies run counter to the great body of NCTE position statements and have been further reinforced by the actions of the National Governors’ Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, who devalued teachers’ wisdom while proceeding with undifferentiated descriptions of what all students should know and be able to do.
The 2009 Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing, states, “Quality assessment is a process of inquiry. It requires gathering information and setting conditions so that the classroom, school, and community become centers of inquiry where students, teachers, and other stakeholders can examine their learning?individually and collaboratively?and find ways to improve their practice.” Be it therefore
RESOLVED, that the National Council of Teachers of English call upon the Obama administration, the National Governors’ Association, and the Council for Chief State School Officers to support policies that
- end high-stakes testing and the evaluation of teachers and schools based on students’ test scores;
- support ongoing classroom-based assessments consistent with the NCTE/IRA 2009 Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing;
- evaluate teachers based on comprehensive measures of effectiveness, such as observations of instruction, teacher portfolios, parent response, and increases in achievement as evidenced by curriculum-based authentic assessments;
- promote school/home/community partnerships by valuing the voices of all stakeholders who take part in the education of children;
- support curriculum that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential; and
- provide equitable funding for all schools.
Be it further resolved that NCTE
- publicly voice its critique of and opposition to educational reform policies that mandate standards, curriculum, and means of student assessments that adversely affect social and educational equity;
- reaffirm its commitment to supporting all literacy educators so that pedagogical and subject matter knowledge, as well as an understanding of the school community and students, are primary influences in school and district plans to advance literacy learning; and
- work assiduously to make the wisdom of NCTE members with deep knowledge of effective teaching and assessment practices influential at every stage of curricula, assessment, and standards development.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.