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NCTE President Sandy Hayes Updates Members on Literacy Education Programs, Shares Her Dream for Students

August 28, 2013

Dear Council Members,

On this day we recognize the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. While we've made some significant progress in these fifty years, our nation has defaulted on yet another promissory note, the moral obligation to all the children of this nation:  the promise of a more secure future through a quality education. This default is not merely a result of insufficient funds. Even in this slowly recovering economy, funding would be an easier problem to tackle than the partisan politics that for six years -- one complete Senate cycle -- have failed to enact legislation that achieves equality of educational opportunity regardless of zip code. It may seem to lawmakers that, surviving six years of inaction, we have lost the urgency of the moment. But we know better:

We see crying children handing in tests.

We see teachers, based on that test, called exemplary one year and deficient the next.

We see the vast resources going to testing, preparing for testing, and labeling based on the testing rather than being spent on the resources to remove those labels.

This legislative vacuum is, as we know, being filled by various policy groups and state legislatures -- often groups with very little direct connection to teaching or the daily lives of students. I am proud that NCTE is working the gap, bringing the knowledge and sensibilities of literacy educators into the mix. Through our Washington, DC, office, NCTE has been a leader in bringing together influential groups with a stake in literacy policy, including CCSSO and the testing consortia,  as well as professional organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, IRA, TESOL, and NWP to exchange information, without endorsement. NCTE’s coalition work with other subject matter organizations helped create consensus about the role of literacy in every subject area, the seed that grew to over 30 stakeholder groups collaborating actively through the National Center for Literacy Education.

In April the presidential team took part in a lively and productive roundtable discussion with ten US Department of Education officials, including Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Delisle also accepted NCTE’s invitation to be a speaker at the congressional briefing on the NCLE-sponsored research report, Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works. That report, drawn from more than 8,000 survey responses, highlighted the diminishing amount of time and resources in support of the kinds of grounded, collaborative professional learning experiences that educators value most. It has been cited in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other influential media.

As NCTE president and as an 8th-grade teacher, I am especially proud of NCTE's support of teachers working with Common Core Standards. While our call for a temporary moratorium on high-stakes testing hasn't gained traction yet, the work of countless NCTE members continues to promote the positive consequences of effective teaching and collaboration, when it is properly supported. The NCTE book series Principles in Practice and Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standardsjournal articles and ReadWriteThink lessons, discussions in the Connected Community, tweets, and Facebook book clubs have raised questions, explored possibilities, and shared successes. In truth, even without the context of core standards, all of these perspectives inspire me to be a better teacher, more intentional in sparking those moments when I can see understanding and pride in my kids' eyes.

As I watch today's historic events I know that I, too, have a dream today. I dream that all our children, from every village and hamlet, urban core and suburb, homeless shelter and highrise condo, leave our classrooms next spring with a passion for learning, a curious and wondering mind, the skills to thrive in our complex and connected world, and a bold self-confidence in their own dreams. 

Thank you for all you do for your students.

Sandy Hayes, NCTE President


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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

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