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Recommendation 2 for Policymakers

NCTE Literacy Education Advocacy Day
February 27, 2014

Note: This is the second of three recommendations for policymakers
(see also the first and third). 

To improve conditions for student literacy learning in the United States, NCTE recommends that policymakers place the professional expertise of teachers and the complex elements of educational institutions at the center of decision making and assessment of educational outcomes. NCTE's three recommendations focus on professional learning, professional expertise, and uses of evidence in decision making about the effectiveness of colleges and universities.


2.    The expertise of educators, based on their research, practice, and knowledge of their students, should be the primary basis for policy decisions designed to improve literacy learning.

Quality literacy instruction emanates from teachers and principals who are rigorously prepared for their profession, engage in collaborative review of their practice, and study the needs of their particular students. These educators can, therefore, provide the best recommendations and make the best decisions regarding teaching practices, teaching materials, and assessments.

In the current climate of new standards implementation, this need for educator expertise as central to decision making applies in the following two ways:

  • Educators decide on materials, texts, and technologies that serve the needs of their students. Mandated lists of textbooks and materials can undermine the ability of teachers and principals to serve the needs of students in their particular schools. In the NCLE survey, even though 60% of teachers reported that their current curricular materials are not directly aligned with the CCSS, only 23% identified that as a problem. In contradiction to the prevalent narrative that implementation would be more successful via a set of instructional materials approved from on high, survey results indicate that 90% of teachers are identifying and/or creating their own materials and approaches to meet the standards. The standards are in common; the methods and materials for meeting the standards are not, and do not need to be, standardized.
  • Educators rely on formative assessment to affirm or modify literacy instruction. Although interim and summative assessments that have received considerable federal investment may contribute to school accountability, formative assessments, generated and used by teachers in their classrooms, are crucial to improving literacy instruction. The Connected Learning Coalition, which is made up of associations representing social studies, science, mathematics, language arts, technology, and career and technical education, states that effective assessment practices "include the analysis of cumulative information about student learning through examination of authentic student work" and "accentuate the cross-disciplinary skills of literacy, habits of inquiry, problem solving, collaboration, and the use of technologies for learning and generating knowledge." This daily and weekly assessing, done by teachers who know their subjects and their students, contributes to increasingly effective literacy instruction.

Policymakers should rely on practicing educators in their own settings to determine appropriate instructional materials, pedagogical methods, and formative assessments that will contribute to effective literacy instruction and student learning.


Association of American Colleges and Universities.  An Introduction to LEAP 

Connected Learning Coalition.  Assessment: A Fundamental Component of Learning.   

National Center for Literacy Education.  Remodeling Literacy Learning Together:  Path to Standards Implementation.   

National Council of Teachers of English.  2014 Education Policy Platform

National Council of Teachers of English.  Formative Assessment That Truly Improves Instruction

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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts