For Immediate Release
November 20, 2010
Contact: Lori Bianchini
NCTE Members Approve Statements on Issues
in Literacy Education
During the Annual Business Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English on November 19, 2010, NCTE members approved the following resolutions:
Resolution on Social Justice in Literacy Education
Background: As we move toward celebrating the 100th anniversary of NCTE in 2011, this resolution honors the pioneering efforts of those trailblazers who paved the way toward the establishment of more equitable schooling practices for all students. While there have been great successes, there is still much more work to be done.
Research confirms that teacher knowledge and competency are directly related to the “quality and equitable delivery of education and student academic achievement” (Ayers, 1998; Darling-Hammond, 1997; Flores-Gonzalez, 2002; Kozol, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 2000; Nieto, 2000) (Ukpokodu, 2007, p. 8). Fewer than 10% of teachers are non-white, while the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 42% of public school students are non-white and the diversity of student languages, ethnicities, religions, and racial and cultural make-up continues to grow (Banks, 2004). Yet, teachers in the classrooms are predominantly white, middle class, and monolingual (Futrell, 2000; Kailin, 1999) and lack the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to work within schools that have a predominantly urban population. Kathleen Brown (2005) tells us “the evidence is clear that various segments of our public school population experiences negative and inequitable treatment on a daily basis” (p. 155) (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Sheurich & Laible, 1995; Valenzuela, 1999). Students of color and white students from low socioeconomic backgrounds experience lower standardized test scores, teacher expectations, and access to resources (Brown, 2005). In fact, over 4.4 million second language learners are enrolled in the United States public schooling system and are expected to take the same standardized tests and are typically evaluated similarly to students whose first language is English (Arce, Luna, Borjian & Conrad, 2005).
Even more alarming, in teacher education programs most teacher educators are predominantly white and fewer than 20% of all professors are non-white (Sleeter, 2008). In an attempt to meet the challenge of inequitable schooling, teacher education programs often revise their theoretical and pedagogical ideologies. However, a democratic system that is more comprehensive and balanced around student needs is required.
Literacy education can be used to disrupt such inequitable hierarchies of power and privilege by adopting a stance on social justice and priming it for policy. Through the efficacy that social justice can have in schools, we commit to interrupting current practices that reproduce social, cultural, moral, economic, gendered, intellectual, and physical injustices. To prime social justice for policy in schools, it must be understood that it evades easy definition and is a grounded theory, a stance/position, a pedagogy, a process, a framework for research, and a promise (“Beliefs about Social Justice in English Education,” CEE Position Statement, December 2009).
Through a sustained commitment to social justice in all its forms, English education can contribute to disrupting these inequitable hierarchies of power and privilege. Be it therefore
Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English
support efforts by educators to teach about social injustice and discrimination in all its forms with regard to differences in race, ethnicity, culture, gender, gender expression, age, appearance, ability, national origin, language, spiritual belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic circumstance, and environment;
acknowledge the vital role that teacher education programs play in preparing teachers to enact and value a pedagogy that is socially just;
advocate for equitable schooling practices that reinforce student dignity and success; and
oppose policies that reinforce inequitable learning opportunities or outcomes for students.
Resolution on Affirming the Role of Teachers and Students in Developing Curricula
Background: The National Council of Teachers of English, the professional home for English educators since 1911, has been on the front lines advocating for curriculum development and implementation that reflects a solid basis in pedagogy, theory, and best practice. With the continuation of high-stakes testing and resulting legislation that dictates particular programs and practices attached to school funding, more and more constraints are being placed on teachers, on curricula, and on classroom practices. Despite the research that demonstrates the failure of many mandated programs and initiatives, such as Reading First, many school districts and educators are mandated to implement and adhere to prescriptive programs and teaching methods and inauthentic forms of assessment.
The development and adoption of the Common Core State Standards and its inclusion of exemplar texts heightens the concern that the authority of teachers as professionals who make decisions regarding materials and practices in literacy education will be diminished.
NCTE has acted over the years to recognize teachers as professional decision makers. For example, NCTE's "Features of Literacy Programs: A Decision-Making Matrix" (2005) offers guidelines for structuring critical conversations as part of the informed decision-making process. NCTE has also promoted effective literacy practices and authentic assessment. Past NCTE resolutions and policies, which are informed by professional research and theory (e.g., "On the Reading First Initiative," 2002), clearly outline concerns about the development of national policy that results in mandates at the state, district, and local school levels. Be it therefore
Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English
reaffirm the rights of teachers and their students to draw from many diverse and dynamic sources – not only a list of exemplar texts – in the selection of classroom texts and materials;
continue to endorse a school curriculum that honors cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, language variety, and the interests and needs of the individual student; and
continue to support and advocate for the inclusion of teachers at all levels of educational decision making.
The National Council of Teachers of English with 50,000 individual and institutional members worldwide, is dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.
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