1997 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Detroit, Michigan
The recent passage of H.R. 2614, The Reading Excellence Act, by the U.S. House of Representatives is alarming. In October of this year, NCTE, in cooperation with the National Reading Conference (NRC), the National Conference on Research in Language and Learning (NCRLL), and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), issued a statement of opposition to the bill. Since this proposed legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate for deliberation, it is vital to inform the public, legislators, and other concerned bodies of the threat this act poses for literacy education.
This Reading Excellence Act stands to impose restrictions on the types of reading instruction, professional development programs, and research that could be supported with federal funds. The language of the bill proposes narrow definitions of reading instruction and research, and uses these definitions to set criteria that will determine how funds are to be distributed to state and local educational agencies.
This proposal is misleadingly and erroneously based on a review of research focused primarily on children having difficulties in learning to read when in fact 70 to 80 percent of all children are having no difficulty in learning to read.
It enlists the federal government (not the research community) in determining what is “reliable, replicable research” and consequently which reading research gets funded, what professional development programs get implemented, as well as what literacy programs get used and supported in our nation’s schools.
Furthermore, it allows funding decisions for projects under this bill to be federally controlled by essentially the same panel of NICHD (National Institute for Child Health and Human Development) researchers who produced a report that the reading research community has identified as an extremely biased, narrowly focused summary of reading research. Professional literacy organizations are summarily excluded from this panel. Be it therefore
Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English assert that any legislation that concerns reading needs to be acceptable to a wide spectrum of educators, reading researchers, teachers, administrators, and others concerned with literacy education. The Reading Excellence Act in its current form does not enjoy this support or acceptance;
that NCTE declare that neither Congress nor any federal agency should establish a single definition of reading or restrict the type of research used in funding criteria for preservice or inservice teacher education and professional development programs;
that NCTE affirm that neither Congress nor any federal agency should bypass traditional standards and procedures for peer review of research; nor should they centralize authority for decision making and review by putting these vital functions in the hands of a single individual or extraordinary authorities;
that NCTE proclaim that no federal law or program should be framed in such a way that its effect would be to provide substantial advantage to any commercial reading program. No person who could personally profit from any legislation or regulation should hold a staff position or be a paid consultant with the government agency that creates or monitors the legislation or regulation;
that NCTE immediately distribute this resolution to members of the education committees and the full bodies of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as to state legislatures; and
that NCTE distribute this resolution to state education agencies, professional education associations, teacher unions, the media, parent groups, and appropriate organizations, and urge them to voice their support of this resolution.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.