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English Journal, Vol. 91, No. 1, September 2001

Cover Art for English Journal, Vol. 91, No. 1, September 2001

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Assessing Ourselves to Death

  • Teaching in the Time of Testing: What Have You Lost?

    Nancy Mellin McCracken and Hugh Thomas McCracken

    Abstract: In preparing for this essay, the McCrackens asked teachers, "What have you lost from your teaching or your classroom since the growth of mandated standardized testing?" Respondents noted not only loss of instructional time but, more significantly, loss of themselves as teachers and declining desire to teach. The authors express further concern for teacher preparation in the age of high-stakes teacher testing and present a critical view of the Praxis II.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Reading the Data: Making Supportable Claims from Classroom Assessment

    Stephen Adkison and Stephen Tchudi

    Abstract: Stephen Adkison and Stephen Tchudi discuss how teachers "can become more skilled at reading and explaining an increasing range of assessment information." The authors use logician Stephen Toulmin’s model of argument and his belief in "the relevance of higher learning to the problems of human life" to outline a method for assessing and making sense of the wide variety of data daily confronting teachers.

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary, Assessment, Pedagogy, Research, Standards

  • Succeeding against the Odds in English

    Judith A. Langer

    Abstract: Judith Langer writes about her research study to discover what makes some reading programs successful and others not so

    Keywords: Middle, Secondary, Assessment, Literacy, Pedagogy, Research, Standards

  • Recomposing the AP English Exam

    Joseph Jones

    Abstract: The Advanced Placement Program (APP) presents a number of compelling assessment issues. Providing a history and critique of the program,Jones notes that the implications of the practices in the APP reveal much about English education and assessment in the last half-century.Reconfiguring the APP English exam to include portfolios, he continues, has the potential to improve writing instruction in all high school English classrooms.

    Keywords: Secondary, Assessment, Literacy, Pedagogy, Standards, Writing

  • Writing beyond Testing: "The Word as an Instrument of Creation"

    G. Lynn Nelson

    Abstract: Students need and deserve more than just to pass a test, says Nelson. They deserve writing classes that go beyond teaching skills and correctness. They need classes that show them the power of the Word. Demonstrating the power of the Word as a tool of creation, she relates the experiences of students participating in the Young Adult Writing Project, an offshoot of the Greater Phoenix Area Writing Project and the National Writing Project. Students were allowed to write from their own experiences and feelings, without the pressure of testing or assessment. In just three weeks, the group became a community of strong writers.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Standards, Standards Everywhere, and Not a Spot to Think

    P. L. Thomas

    Abstract: Though well-intentioned, the current standards and testing movement has had a serious negative impact on the teaching of reading and writing and we have seen the return to isolated instruction and inauthentic purposes for both reading and writing in classrooms at all grade levels.Thomas says that the English classroom is the central place to take a stand against these inauthentic and reductionist assessment approaches.

    Keywords: Elementary, Middle, Secondary, Assessment, Literacy, Pedagogy, Standards, Writing, Reading

  • The Day the Writing Died: A Play in One Act

    Deborah M. Dean

    Abstract: Dean presents a fictionalized dialogue demonstrating the impact that state writing assessments with high stakes can have on classroom content.

    Keywords: Secondary, Administration, Assessment, Pedagogy, Standards, Writing

  • Diplomas Dubiously Denied: A Taxonomy and Commentary

    Jeff Zorn

    Abstract: Zorn organizes a confusing array of arguments and negotiates between two camps: those who favor standards reform and high stakes tests and those who argue against them. Concludes that neither holds the key to school reform and present a third camp - one that favors intellectual growth above all else.

    Keywords: Secondary, Assessment, Pedagogy, Standards

  • The Impact of the MCAS: Teachers Talk about High-Stakes Testing

    Catherine Luna and Cara Livingstone Turner

    Abstract: Massachusetts English Teachers talk about the impact of the new Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and how they are dealing with this test in their classrooms and schools, expressing concerns about how it has changed the way they teach, how they are teaching to the test, and how the test has resulted in loss of creativity and thought.

    Keywords: Secondary, Administration, Assessment, Diversity, Pedagogy, Research, Standards

  • Teacher to Teacher: How Do You Test Your Students' Knowledge of What You Teach?

    Patricia Crist and Gregory Shafer

    Abstract: Crist explains how she and her school help students cope with the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) exam. Shafer describes her end-of-the-year literacy research project.

    Keywords: Elementary, Middle, Secondary, Assessment

  • Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad TAAS? Rethinking Our Response to Standardized Testing

    Janet McClaskey

    Abstract: McClaskey emphasizes the importance of how we react to standardized tests. Teachers should self-educate themselves to the test, she says, and mold the curriculum creatively around the content by focusing teaching on making meaning rather than memorization. She provides examples from her own classroom detailing how she ensures that her students pass the test while still including creative and interesting opportunities for learning.

    Keywords: Elementary, Middle, Secondary, Assessment, Literacy, Pedagogy, Standards

  • From the Editor

    Virginia Monseau

    Abstract: For this themed issue, "Assessing Ourselves to Death," the editor adds her "two cents" to the discussion. She goes on to list several variables that teachers cannot control, yet they are powerful enough to render testing outcomes inaccurate and unreliable. Student absenteeism, weak parenting and student apathy, and text anxiety are all contributors to lowered test scores. However, politicians continue to ignore these factors and instead target teachers as being responsible.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • EJ Extra: So You Want My Students to Take Your Test?

    Rick Pribyl

    Abstract: In a humorous, yet revealing, short essay, Pribyl reduces a semester's worth of teaching opportunities from 93 days to just one. His response to the title question is, "I'll be darned if I am going to administer your test!"

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Speaking My Mind: Hidden Dangers of the AP English Exams

    Jeffery C. Markham

    Abstract: The number of students taking the College Board's AP exams has nearly doubled in the last ten years, and many English departments now seem to equate the success of their curriculum with the number of students taking the AP. While these tests receive seemingly universal support, Markham says, there are a few reasons to be wary. By identifying some of the reasons here, Markham questions the validity of these tests.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • From the Secondary Section: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

    Carol Jago

    Abstract: Jago explains why Charles Dickens' words aptly describe the state of assessment in public education today.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Insights for Interns

    Jennifer Bruner and Cindy O'Donnell-Allen

    Abstract: Bruner, a beginning teacher, questions how to teach mandated curriculum without losing her own beliefs and sense of integrity. O-Donnell-Allen replies with some helpful advice.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Learning with Technology: "Telling Stories Long into the Night": Romantic Circles High School Project

    Brenda H. Walton and Tara Bork; Trevor Owen, Editor

    Abstract: Walton and Bork report on their experiences in the Romantic Circles High School Project, an online educational network built by and for a national community of teachers and students and dedicated to the humanities, particularly the study of nineteenth-century British literature and culture. They describe in detail the use of a MOO (Multi-User Object Oriented System), which allows students to participate in online activities with teachers and scholars.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Poetry

    David Hassler, Editor

    Abstract: Poems by Alessandra Lynch, Julia Kasdorf, and Gary Metras.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Professional Links: Considering the Costs: Rethinking Standardized Testing

    Connie S. Zitlow, Editor

    Abstract: Reviews of Alfie Kohn's The Case against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools (Heinemann, 2000) and Failing our Kids: Why the Testing Graze Won't Fix Our Schools (Rethinking Schools, Ltd., 2000) by Kathy Swope and Barbara Miner. Includes related websites.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Talk About Books: Life Stories: Personal Portraits

    John Noell Moore, editor; William E. McSweeny

    Abstract: Reviews of Edith Bruck's Who Loves You Like This (Paul Dry Books, 2001); Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker (David Remnick, ed.; Random House, 2000); and Portraits of the Presidents: Power and Personality in the Oval Office (Time Books, 2000) by Hugh Sidey.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Young Adult Literature: AP And YA?

    Chris Crowe, editor

    Abstract: Although the lack of young adult literature in advanced placement classes is understandable, Crowe contends that there is value in supplementing the canon with YA books. He suggests further reading for AP and Honors English teachers who "dare to disturb the universe," and includes his regularly featured annotations of new and overlooked YA books worth reading.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • Accelerated Direct Success

    Alfie Kohn

    Abstract: Alfie Kohn satirizes commercial test improvement programs in this tongue-in-cheek advertisement for ADS - Accelerated Direct Success. Full text article available in print version only.

    Keywords: Secondary


    Abstract: Abstract for this article is currently not available.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • FOR FUN: Subtexts

    Stephen Sniderman

    Abstract: Abstract for this article is currently not available.

    Keywords: Secondary

  • English in the News

    Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens, editor

    Abstract: Abstract for this article is currently not available.

    Keywords: Secondary

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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