Tuesday, February 1, 2011

$$$ It's all about the Benjamins $$$

It seems obvious that many of the same difficulties with the integration of high school English curriculum still occur in today's curriculum as when the notions of such were first brought forth by the "Committee of Ten" . Some of the founding notions discussed in the original development of English curriculum that are still prevalent in educational theory about the teaching of English in high schools today include the following: 

1. It is essential for high school English teachers to create a diverse curriculum, for a diverse audience of students, in order to meet the needs of all students.
2. High school English curriculum must be geared toward students who are and are not headed for higher education.
3. High School English curriculum must prepare students for college English courses. 

Okay, so these are great thoughts and ideas, and I certainly agree with the founders, but after almost 100 years, I would argue that now we have even more dilemmas to rectify. First of all, how do we make those original ideas actually come to fruition? And why the heck has it taken us so freaking long to figure all this stuff out?

Some might argue that there needs to be some sort of tracking, vocational track vs. college track. Others might say that grade-levels by age do a disservice to the students by ignoring their reading and writing levels.
Although I cannot say what the problem may have been during the majority of 20th Century, across the United States, I personally would argue that currently the major problem in Michigan is state mandated testing. And the impending doom of poor ACT scores from students statewide has really got me thinking a lot about this lately. 

Do I think testing is bad? No. I think testing can actually be helpful for assessing the needs and growth of students, but I think the way that it is implemented in our state, and perhaps others (I am just not privy to the knowledge of such) is inherently antithetical to the founding beliefs about the teaching of English. If we look at the ACT test, three of the five sections are related to English: Reading, Writing, and English. 

What once was ignored in academic curriculum has become the primary focus of education. Schools are required to follow state standards and benchmarks, the established English curriculum, but yet those three sections of the ACT test, which determine AYP and school funding, are completely unrelated to and unaligned with the state's standards and benchmarks. 

So now we have English teachers who are taught in their college classes that they should teach based on the founding theories of Education (the right way to teach in my opinion); given a list by the state that regulates the ways that they implement those beliefs; required to test their students on content and material that has nothing to do with the curriculum they’ve been given to teach; and then their teaching capabilities are often judged on the scores of those tests. 

What should really determine the quality of a writing teacher? You might think it would be their abilities to implement those founding notions about how English should be taught, but unfortunately a majority of their merit, when often other elements are thought of as irrelevant, can be evaluated based on the scores of those tests. 

Basically, these mandates have taught teachers that their values has nothing to do with educational theory, leave that in the university; it's just about the money honey.

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