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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on Limiting the Role of Courts in Curriculum

1981 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts


While recognizing the historic role of the courts in protecting the right of people of color to education (Brown vs. Topeka, 1954), NCTE members nevertheless noted that judges' decisions have in some cases "usurped the professional responsibility of educators" by specifying instructional plans and teaching methods. Such actions not only affect teacher morale, they pointed out. They have adverse effects on pupil achievement, since they "preclude the use of potentially effective alternatives" and limit flexibility in meeting individual students' needs.

The NCTE members praised Judge Charles Joiner, who in a ruling on a case brought by African American parents in Ann Arbor, Michigan, mandated appropriate inservice instruction in reading for teachers. Judge Joiner left decisions about the inservice program to professionals, requiring the school district to present proof of their qualifications for the task of teaching students of color. Be it therefore


Resolved, that although the National Council of Teachers of English strongly affirm the rights of citizens to seek redress for their educational grievances in the courts, where participants can hold responsible individuals accountable for the consequences of their educational decisions, NCTE urge judges issuing redress to avoid making specific curricular decisions themselves and oppose court actions which usurp the professional responsibilities of educators by mandating specific methods, materials, tests, or evaluation criteria; and

     that the NCTE Executive Committee publicize this position by disseminating this resolution and the background statement to the profession at large through its official publications and to appropriate legal and judicial organizations, e.g., the American Bar Association and the American Judicature Society.

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