Friday, March 20, 2009

K-12 Topic: Underperforming Schools

10-second review: Want to know what is going on in language arts in schools? Begin with the students. Ask them what is happening in their language arts classes.

Title: “Why Now, More Than Ever, We Need to Talk About Opportunity to Learn.” L Scherff and CL Piazza. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (December 2008/January 2009), 343-352. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary. Examined students’ responses about frequency and duration in regard to (a) writing, (b) the number of major works read and (c) class experiences like working with a literature anthology, grammar book, writing textbook and newspapers. Asked students to provide their perceptions of their literacy instruction in an open-ended section.

Results: Teaching to the test. Student tracking by achievement levels. More opportunity for the higher tracks than for the lower. Writing limited to expository and persuasive, the forms of writing required in the state tests—no poetry or creative writing. Spent time in writing but were not taught how to write (writing process) or how to improve writing.

“It appears that the textbook, with its related activities, remains the primary focus of language arts classes, despite the advances in and availability of technology…. Students mentioned the inordinate amount of time spent on ‘seat work’ that was ‘boring’ and a ‘waste of time.’…..” p. 349.

Comment: Seems that teaching to the test and tracking students by achievement and the use, primarily of textbooks and seat work drill, limit the opportunities for a full, rich language arts curriculum. As a matter of fact, it sounds like the way it was when I broke into teaching. My other thought is that if you want to know what is really going on in language arts classes, you should ask the students. The picture presented from this students survey lacked imagination and creativity. RayS.

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