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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on Excessive Focus on Subskills

1977 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in New York, New York


The "back-to-basics" movement in education prompted school systems to adopt policies of promotion and graduation based on the teaching and testing of isolated skills in reading and writing. NCTE members passed this resolution to warn the education community and the public about a lack of evidence that success in such tests indicates "comprehensive ability to read and write." Such testing practices, they cautioned, can result in a narrowing of the curriculum and a limiting of students' language development, with especially serious implications for culturally diverse students and those of low socioeconomic status. The members also warned that students' standardized-test scores are an unsound basis for judging teachers' performance. Be it therefore


Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English condemn the transformation of the English language arts curriculum from a holistic concern for language development to sequenced but isolated and often unrelated sets of reading and writing skills;

     that NCTE oppose as educationally unsound the use of mandated performance assessments as criteria for promotion and/or graduation of students;

     that NCTE oppose the use of narrow assessments of student skill as criteria for the hiring or firing of teachers; and

     that NCTE actively campaign against testing practices and programs which, masquerading as improved education for all children, actually result in the segregation and tracking of students, thus denying them equal educational opportunity.

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