Approved by the NCTE Executive Committee, February 14, 2008
Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
As Congress considers reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act the National Council of Teachers of English, representing 52,000 members, recommends that the following changes be enacted.
- Change Adequate Yearly Progress Measurement.
A shift from single, high stakes measures to multiple measures is needed to produce a more accurate portrait of yearly progress toward academic achievement. More nuanced assessments can provide better information on achievement without increasing the testing burden and wasting valuable instructional time. Therefore, NCTE calls upon Congress to fund pilot studies by local education agencies to explore how combinations of multiple measures provide a better understanding of student achievement. These should include a variety of plans incorporating state level assessments; classroom, school, or district tests; extended writing samples; tasks, projects, performances, exhibitions; and collected samples of student work, portfolios or learning records. Teachers in these districts should gain access to assessment data from these pilots in a timely fashion so they can use it to shape instruction.
- Change the Definition of Scientifically Based Research to Scientifically Valid Research.
The scientifically valid research definition, as incorporated in the Head Start Act, should be adopted in the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including the Reading First program. This approach permits investigation using a variety of methodological approaches to answer the range of questions and issues involved in a line of inquiry. It requires a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning and it encourages careful scrutiny, informed critique, and replication of research findings.
- Change Practices in Appointing Peer Review Panels.
Federal grants for literacy education should be awarded through an objective peer review system. Review panels should be comprised of scholars and practitioners with a deep knowledge of a range of relevant literacy research methodologies, pedagogy, and content knowledge, nominated by organizations with differing perspectives, such as: professional and scholarly associations, postsecondary institutions, and state departments of education.
- Change Support for High Quality Teachers in High Need Schools.
Much attention has been given to “pay for performance” as a means for improving teaching quality at high need schools. An alternative approach endorsed by NCTE focuses on providing on-going support for teachers and schools. This includes:
- Funding for teachers and literacy coaches to participate in effective, sustained professional development
- Scheduling that provides opportunities for teachers and coaches to participate in sustained professional development and to collaborate and plan.
- Requiring supplementary service providers to be highly prepared teachers.
- Separate funding to improve environmental factors including class size, access to technology, access to quality instructional materials, and school safety.
- Change Support for English Language Learners.
In order to help English learners acquire the language proficiency they need for school success, the ESEA should provide funding to:
- Measure student achievement in the language in which students are best able to demonstrate learning.
- Support professional development for teachers of English Language Learners in effective practices that build on home languages.
- Support bilingual and dual immersion programs.
- Advancing Adolescent Literacy.
NCTE urges Congress to make adolescent literacy a priority in funding and policy initiatives aimed at increasing student success and improving graduation rates. We support enactment of adolescent literacy measures such as the Striving Readers Act and Success in the Middle because…
- Literacy development is an ongoing process throughout schooling and is a pathway to academic success, civic participation, and the working world.
- The skill set needed for literacy success changes across a student’s academic career as content becomes more challenging and diverse.
- Reading and writing play a foundational role in the learning of math, science, and social studies. Literacy gains enhance student achievement across the curriculum and lead to successful completion of high school.
- 21st Century Literacies and Professional Development.
NCTE calls upon Congress to provide funding to help teachers learn to support student mastery of the full range of 21st century literacies, so that they will thrive in an increasingly interdependent, global society. Examples of these literacies include:
- reading and composing online
- accessing information
- critically evaluating information
- managing an increasing amount and variety of information
- generating new knowledge in new forms with new media (e. g., Web 2.0; mash-ups)
- using online materials ethically
- interacting ethically online