Literacy Assessment as Advocacy: Learning to Be Literate: More than a Single Story, Part I - National Council of Teachers of English
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Literacy Assessment as Advocacy: Learning to Be Literate: More than a Single Story, Part I

This post was written by NCTE member Bobbie Kabuto, the chair of the NCTE Standing Committee on Literacy Assessment.

So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over, and that is what they become.
—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story TED Talk

We fall into the danger of creating single stories of learners when we depend on standardized and high-stakes assessments that link to teacher accountability, grade level standards, and yearly progress reports. The results from these types of assessments can create deficit views of learners. The narrative that ensues from these views often blames educators, families, and communities, particularly those from historically marginalized communities like Black and Brown and linguistically diverse communities.

Educators can disrupt the creation of a single assessment story by framing assessment as advocacy work. In this video blog, Pat Paugh and Deborah MacPhee discuss their upcoming book Learning to Be Literate: More than a Single Story through the lens of assessment as advocacy. Centering meaning making at the core of learning to be literate, they present a framework called Active Literacy Learning (ALL), that will help educators and policy makers to:

  • Advocate for more culturally affirming assessment practices;
  • Center student voices in the assessment process;
  • Promote formative assessment practices that capture the range of knowledge and meaning making processes of learners.

In Part I of this video blog, Paugh and MacPhee, who draw from Adichie’s term single story, discuss how the ALL framework was developed partly out of current conversations in the media about literacy learning in the early years. They, then, present two parts of the framework: Learning the Codes, and Reading and Writing with Purpose. Paugh and MacPhee argue for the importance of expanding our definition of assessing the codes of written language and developing a literate mindset through reading and writing for meaningful purposes.

Stay tuned for Part II, when Paugh and MacPhee further expand on the ALL framework and answer questions about assessment as advocacy.


It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.


Bobbie Kabuto is professor and chair of the Elementary and Early Childhood Education Department at Queens College, City University of New York. 



Standing Committee on Literacy Assessment Members: Chris Hass, Renata Love Jones, Bobbie Kabuto, Idalia Nuñez, Kathryn Mitchell Pierce, Peggy O’Neill, Eric Turley, and Elisa Waingort.