Contemporary Issues in Education Course Syllabus Fall 2018 (subject to change!)
Introductions. We’ll discuss your and my expectations, and I’d like to spend some time just talking about why you are interested in this course and this possible career.
Neag Teacher Education Programs
Neag Academic Advisors Mia Hines and Dominique Battle-Lawson will join us today to provide an overview of Neag’s Teacher Education programs, discuss the application process, and answer questions.
What Is English?
English is and for a long time has been the most essential course every high school student and college undergraduate must take. It is typically the only subject students need to take four years of to graduate from high school and it is generally the only course every college freshman is required to take. However, this has not always been the case, and the field has morphed tremendously over the years—and it continues to do so. We’ll work on coming to our own definition of the field.
The Privatization Movement and the Corporate Reform of Education.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was first passed in 1965. In 2002 during the administration of George H. W. Bush, the ESEA was reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Several provisions of NCLB had far reaching and controversial effects on all aspects of education. The Obama administration attempted to move federal education legislation in new directions, most notably with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top (R2T) program, announced in 2009, which also was mired in some controversy. Part of the R2T program required states to adopt the new Common Core state standards, which dramatically influenced the direction of education. Toward the end of the Obama administration, the ESEA or NCLB, was reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a move that deemphasized but did not eliminate the influence of the CCSS. ESSA remains in place, but the agenda of President Trump and the current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has moved even further in the direction of privitization. More recently, the US Supreme Court ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME has potentially devastating consequences for Teachers Unions.
Standardized Assessment (SAT, SBAC and more)
Standardized testing has become a fixed aspect of all levels of education. At the secondary level, English teachers in Connecticut had for many years been expected to prepare students to take the CMTs in 8th grade, the CAPT in 10th grade, and SAT and AP tests in 11th and 12th grade. Now, these have mostly been replaced by the new SBAC tests aligned to the Common Core, although the newly re-designed SAT has been approved in CT to replace the SBAC test in the 11th grade. These new tests have placed even greater emphasis on assessment and instruction, and many would like to see them used to evaluate and compensate teachers.
All over the country there has been a renewed push for greater levels of accountability for classroom teachers. New teacher evaluation protocols were implemented state-wide two years ago. These were supposed to be tied to student outcomes, such as performance on standardized tests, but push back from the two teachers unions did away with this.
The Achievement Gap(s): Race, Gender, and Language
Connecticut has the largest achievement gaps in the nation between wealthy white students and lower income mostly African American and Latin American students. We also have notable gaps between males and females. Much of this, especially regarding race and language, is tied up with our legacy of (still) segregated schools. We will look at the challenges and the nuances of the issues.
Recently, a federal judge in Michigan ruled in a suit filed on behalf of Detroit students in 2016 that students in the US do not have a constitutional right to literacy. We’ll enter the ensuing debate.
Moriah Balingit’s “Do Children Have a Right to Literacy?”
Jacey Fortin’s “‘Access to Literacy is Not a Constitutional Right.”
NPR’s “Students Argue Literacy is a Right in Lawsuit”
Alia Wong’s “Students in Detroit are Suing the State Because They Have Weren’t Taught to Read”
The Writing Process
Since the early 1970s, the field of English/Language Arts has been heavily influenced by Expressionist teaching philosophies, notably Reader Response and Writing Process. While Reader Response fell out of favor under the CCSS, Writing Process is perhaps more important than ever. We will read a few seminal pieces in the field by one of the most important proponents of Process theory, Donald Murray.
College-Level Writing and the Academic Essay
One problem in education is the lack of vertical communication and professional development. In other words, it is rare that teachers from different levels of education communicate with one another, and one result is that we often don’t really know how best to prepare students for the next level. For those of you who plan to become secondary English teachers, it is incredibly important to know what college-level writing is.
Related to the issue of college-level writing is the academic essay. Historically, high school English teachers and college English professors have placed inordinate emphasis on the discrete skill of literary analysis. But recent trends in the field are placing greater emphasis on a broader definition of the academic essay, one that encompasses traditional skills of analysis but that tends toward interdisciplinarity, multi-modality, student inquiry, and writing through literature.
The Role of Creative Writing
One of the most unusual omissions in teaching and the preparation of teachers is creative writing. As teachers of English, we venerate and expect students to venerate fiction, poetry, and drama, yet rarely do we allow students to try their hand at these genres, and teacher preparation programs (as well as undergraduate English programs) provide little if any training in the teaching of creative writing. Additional pressure is added by standardized tests that favor expository and argument writing, and now by the Common Core’s push toward more nonfiction reading and writing. Where, if anywhere, does Creative Writing fit into the field of English?
The Role of Technology in the Classroom
Technology has profoundly impacted education at all levels, and for English teachers there is tremendous pressure to teach students how to read, write, interpret, and prooduce digital texts, as well as use new hardware and software literacy technologies. And yet in many districts, teachers and students have little to no access to these media and technologies, either due to poverty or to school districts’ excessive fears of liability and the resultant limits placed on access. We have time to do little more than peek at the tip of this iceberg, but we will take a look at some of the issues for English teachers.
Professional Development and Teacher Leadership
An important study of teacher effectiveness from Stanford University concluded that a significant discrepancy in teacher effectiveness can be documented in teachers who work beyond their twentieth year. Yet, undoubtedly, there are highly effective 20+ year veterans. The difference appears to be teachers’ participation in ongoing, quality professional development programs. We will read a little about professional development and teacher leadership, and look at a couple of the more effective professional organizations out there for teachers of English and writing, such as NCTE and NWP.
UConn Programs in Neag and the English Department: IB/M, TCPCG, the Concentration in Teaching English, internships, tutoring, and assistantships for high school outreach.
Since most if not all of you in this course will end up applying to one of Neag’s programs and/or complete the English Department’s Concentration in Teaching English, we will take some time to look at these programs, as well as at some of the high school outreach programs that exist within the English Department. Internship, tutoring, and, later, graduate assistantship opportunities exist for students in the junior year or later, and this unit will make you aware of those opportunities.
Submit a final e-portfolio that includes weekly response papers, write-ups of interviews, and your final essay on effective secondary English teaching.