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Recommendations for Policymakers

 

NCTE Literacy Education Advocacy Day

February 25, 2016

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

 

Fund and Encourage ESSA Implementation through Collective Capacity Building and Collective Leadership

Collaborative inquiry and action across a whole school is the most powerful way to strengthen literacy learning.

Research shows that giving our students the schools they deserve requires the collaboration of all stakeholders who contribute to their learning. ESSA’s emphasis on local control is well aligned with a collective capacity-building approach, but successful implementation will require the active participation of teachers at all levels of planning and a comprehensive approach to funding literacy initiatives.

The Department of Education should require, and members of Congress should advocate, that teachers be primary participants in the development of state and local plans for assessment, teacher evaluation, professional learning, and school improvement.

  • Implementation must be guided by practitioner knowledge from the very beginning. Only teachers and principals have the depth of knowledge to connect the dots between practices and outcomes that will contribute to improved literacy learning for students.
  • The deepest and most sustained systemic improvements in literacy learning are the result of collaborative leadership in which teachers, school leaders, and district leaders share responsibility for decisions that shape the conditions for literacy learning, working closely with parents, students, and community stakeholders.

 

Congress should fund programs authorized under ESSA that support collective capacity building for powerful comprehensive literacy education, and the Department of Education should prioritize capacity-building approaches in grant competitions.

  • True school and system improvement requires collaborative leadership, protected time during the school day for collaboration, and a focus on student work as a primary source of evidence of student achievement. 
  • Because literacy is part of all learning and key to success in all disciplines and careers, we must take a comprehensive approach: investing in all grades from early childhood to secondary, and supporting literacy teaching in all subject areas.
  • The Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) program (authorized under ESSA Title II, Part B, Subpart 2) supports comprehensive literacy capacity building, grounded in the proven effectiveness of the Striving Readers program, and should be funded well above the authorized level. Students throughout the country need the benefits this program brings, not just in a handful of states.
  • Comprehensive collective capacity building also holds great promise for turning around the schools ranked in the lowest 5% by state assessment systems. The federal government should direct funding to support and evaluate the capacity-building approach to school turnaround.  

Oversee Implementation of ESSA to Promote Equity

The federal government must take responsibility for ensuring that state and local implementation of ESSA increases equity in literacy learning.

All students deserve to build the literacy skills and experiences that are essential to success in life. Congress recognized the foundational importance of literacy to equity in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA shifts many decisions about literacy education to states and districts, but the federal government must remain accountable for the results of this shift. Congress and the Department of Education must ensure that states and districts implement ESSA to maximize equity in literacy learning.

The Department of Education and Congress should ensure that state assessment systems are designed to improve literacy teaching and learning for all students.

  •  In order to effectively identify and address inequities, state assessment plans must be focused on improvement. These plans must use multiple measures that give us a fuller picture of the quality of schools overall instead of the current approaches that focus more on the achievement of individual teachers and students.
  • Assessment plans should include a focus on school climate, with a particular emphasis on improving disciplinary practices so we can reduce the number of students being pushed out of the educational system and into the criminal justice system.

 

The Department of Education and Congress should ensure that states and districts provide all students with well-qualified and effective teachers.

  • State equity plans must clearly demonstrate how implementation will result in equitable distribution of well-qualified teachers. States must be held accountable for aggressively implementing their plans and for providing nationally comparable data on their progress. 
  • To be a teacher of record in English language arts, teachers must
    • demonstrate English studies content knowledge;
    • demonstrate cultural competence with diverse student populations;
    • have had significant clinical practice; and
    • have sustained access to mentoring and coaching.        
  • Teacher preparation should be seen as part of a professional continuum that includes mentoring, professional learning and collaboration, and teacher leadership. 
  • Teacher evaluation used to guide the investment of federal funds ought to consider multiple measures collected over time that address the full range of an educator’s professional responsibilities.

 

Reauthorize the Higher Education Act and Regulate Higher Education for Quality Instruction That Accounts for Difference

Quality and variety together make American higher education great through the work of its faculty.

In light of the significant investment that the nation and their students make in them, higher education programs and institutions should demonstrate exceptional quality. However, the information used to make decisions about the quality of higher education needs to reflect the existing diversity of types of institutions, student populations, desirable outcomes, and academic and professional disciplines. Regardless of these variables, in every context college courses should be taught by fully qualified teachers working under conditions that enable them to perform at the level of excellence that students deserve. 

Congress and the Department of Education should collect, disseminate, and evaluate information about higher education institutions in ways that reflect their multiple purposes and disciplinary differences.

  • Accreditation of institutions of higher education and of their programs must take into account the institution or program’s mission, be focused on ongoing improvement, and involve teachers centrally in determining questions, assessment methods, and use of results that are valid for their disciplines and contexts.
  • Simple measures such as graduation rates, recent graduate earnings, and standardized test results mask many of the most important outcomes of higher education. People making decisions about higher education also need to know about such factors as long-term career outcomes, level of exposure to high-impact instructional practices, and the extent of development of habits of minds essential to personal, professional, and civic life. 

 

Congress and the Department of Education should ensure that credit-bearing courses are taught by qualified and adequately supported teachers.

  • Alternative routes to college credit through concurrent enrollment and early college have promise to increase higher education access and completion, but to be successful students’ experiences must be equivalent to those in courses offered on the college campus. Courses must be taught by qualified teachers with graduate coursework in the field, pedagogical content knowledge, cultural competence, and access to aligned professional development and support.
  • Adjunct faculty must work under conditions that allow them to perform effectively and that are financially sustainable for them. These faculty members are often highly qualified and dedicated, but the heavy workload they must take on to earn a living wage and their lack of job security make it difficult for them to teach up to their potential. At a minimum, adjunct faculty need access to unemployment insurance and loan forgiveness, and more national data is needed on faculty working conditions, such as that previously provided through the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. 

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