Tag Archives: ncte

(One More) NCTE Thought: the common core

I didn’t capitalize the second half of the title out of solidarity. As Mr. S from TPG points out, the common core don’t deserve the status nod of capital letters.

In the days since the convention, I’ve been desperately trying to catch up with my life, which left me behind for two weeks as I first went to NCTE and then came home to a turkey, stuffing, and a couple much-needed days off. Because I’ve been trying to grade unit calendars that my pre-service teachers just turned in, and because I need… need… NEED! to finish this memo so that I can be done with the prospectus, I haven’t been following my feeds or blogs besides an occasional check here and there to see what’s new. But today, it’s back to the normal routine, which means Monday lunch at home in front of my RSS feeds, which usually means a blog post. What I’m noticing today? A lot of frustration with the common core standards. If you don’t know about them… you should. Click here.

Note: as I’m writing this, an email came into my inbox from the NCTE teaching and learning forum entitled “Deadline for Commentaries on the Common Core Extended…” I can’t seem to escape these standards this week.

Mitch Nobis’s post on the ccss and their prevalence at the conference caught my attention, along with Mr. S’s post above. Mr. S came away with a slightly more upbeat take on the standards rhetoric from the conference, but I have to say, like Nobis, I was pretty startled by the prevalence of talk about the common core and the degree to which common core rhetoric is becoming so prevalent in conversations about English teaching. Nearly every third session at NCTE this year was about the common core. What is going on here, folks?

But, on the other hand, it sort of makes sense. This is what teachers are doing in their classrooms and departments right now, and those are the voices we hear at NCTE. And I regret to admit I’m part of the problem. I participated in a group here at UM that put together a common core book series, Supporting Students, with NCTE. I’ve given presentations at CEE and NCTE on working within and beyond the common core in the ELA classroom. When I struggle with my own demons, I usually end up concluding that things like standards and tests are (or at least appear to be) here to stay, so what else can I do but figure out how to work with (around?) them?

As soon as I think that (or worse — as soon as it come out of my mouth), I get angry. Nobis voiced his frustration with the thousands of people who keep saying “I know they’re standards, but they’re not that bad.” I’ve said that, and the fact that I’ve said it makes me mad. At myself. At textbook companies and corporate lobbyists who convinced the federal government that tying these standards to important funding was an ethical thing to do (see post from last week). At myself again. Because isn’t it my job to draw on research and what we know about teaching and learning in my work — not on the common core? Isn’t it my job to push the frontiers of education forward… isn’t that what research is for? By the time it’s all said and done, I’m just mad at everything. I sort of want to scream “WHY ISN’T ANYONE LISTENING TO US?”

So that’s where I am with things this Monday. Now on to this memo, which I really, really, REALLY! need to finish.

NCTE 2012 Reflections: The Corporatization of the American Classroom

I went to a session this morning that featured Linda Christensen (chair), Troy Hicks, Jory Brass, and Allen Webb, entitled “School TM: Teacher Decision Making in the Era of the (For-Profit) Corporate Classroom.” The conversation got heated and emotional very quickly, and I want to use this space to make the comments that I was going to make in the session (but we ran out of time).

Before I reflect, though, here is a link to a wiki the panelists set up describing the corporate invasion taking place in America’s schools. As one of the panelists noted today, if you enter at any point in the corporate network, you’re basically talking to the same group of people; Pearson meets Gates meets ETS… it’s all one big beast.

Click here to see their Wiki and learn more about the corporate culture of American schooling.

Click here to view the backchannel that the panelists set up on TodaysMeet.com.

Now for my two cents…

I wonder about the impact of this corporatization on teacher education and how we can fight back against it. It came up briefly during the discussion, but then fizzled. However, I see some of the effects of this corporatization, though delayed (as always), starting to trickle into our teacher education classrooms as students become concerned about whether or not they are going to be “good enough” at teaching. This pressing question isn’t problematic (it has haunted the minds of pre-service teachers for centuries, I’m sure)… at least, not until “good enough” comes to mean their students’ scores on standardized tests are “good enough” for them to keep their jobs. My pre-service students worry about test scores in the same way juniors in high school have increasingly worried about their scores on the SAT and ACT over the past few years. And I can’t blame them. These early career teachers are receiving very mixed messages about the role of tests and corporate-sponsored technologies and texts in their teaching.

At one point during the session, someone noted that it is the express goal of these corporate networks to decrease enrollment in teacher education in the coming years by something on the order of 30%. Well, it’s working; I’m starting to see the impact in my own school of education. Our last three cohorts have totaled 27 students (this is down from years when we would have multiple cohorts of 18+). This, I believe, is the compounded result of many factors, not least of which include negative portrayals of teaching in the media and the recent upswing in TFA recruits from our university. Each of these things are products of this corporatization of American schooling. Don’t believe me? Read the arguments on the panelists’ wiki.

I left this session fired up. Frustrated. Shaking a little bit (though that could’ve been the double-shot latte I downed beforehand). Which one participant argued was exactly what we should be feeling — angry. Angry that our system is so heavily influenced by people who know nothing about education or the important role of differentiation (not sameness) in educational equity.

But anger never got me very far, so here, I’m trying to consider ways in which to respond positively and productively to this discussion. I think step number one, at least as far as teacher education is concerned, is to make visible to our pre-service teachers the role that corporatization is likely to play in their professional lives such that they can resist it by relying on their (and others’) professional knowledge. Knowledge gained from working with kids, with other teachers, and with individuals who understand what is best for our nation’s schools.

More reflections to come, I’m sure, as I wrap up my weekend in Vegas.

NCTE Gear-Up

This weekend, I need to start gearing up for my trip to NCTE’s national convention in Las Vegas. This year will be different from last year… first of all, I’m the only one in my program (besides my adviser) who is heading to NCTE this year. Last year, I was there with most of my current cohort and the cohort one year ahead of me, and we were promoting and presenting our book series on the Common Core. I was participating in multiple sessions and was hanging out in my favorite city — Chicago —  with people from Georgia, Indiana, and Colorado who I never get to see enough of.

This year will likely be a little more chill. Due to plane fares being through the roof and the timing of our presentation, I am leaving on Friday (I always leave on Thursday) and coming back on Sunday, late. I’m presenting on only one panel this year (our title: ‘I am a Teacher’: Teacher Identity, Agency, and Action in the 21st Century Classroom), with a group of graduate students from Purdue, my alma mater. My fellow panelists are good friends who I make it a point to reconnect with every year at NCTE, when we are all there. Our panel’s time slot is less than ideal — we’re the last session on Sunday, after most people head home, so it’s very possible that we’ll be speaking to an empty room.

I don’t mean to sound glum about what is shaping up to be a slightly less crazy trip; I’m in fact quite thrilled that I will get to spend a couple days attending sessions that interest me instead of an entire day attending obligatory sessions like last time. In particular, a few of the sessions Troy Hicks describes on his blog sound very relevant to my work. The featured sessions on Saturday morning caught my eye: “Tuning Teachers’ Voice,” which will include Sonia Nieto, Carol Jago, and Anne Gere (said adviser, above). I can’t wait to spend a couple days surrounded by people who are dedicated to improving the instruction of English and the profession of teaching!

It will be good to get away for a few days in Sin City (though I’m hoping to keep the sinning to a minimum) as I approach the end of what has been an insane semester of proposal writing, defending, IRBing, and methods teaching. This has easily been my craziest semester of graduate school yet, so I’m glad it is met with a trip to NCTE that I can tailor to include my own passions, interests, and friends. Vegas, here I come.