Archive for March, 2005

NCTE Inbox

I’m sure almost everyone is a member of NCTE and so is getting Inbox every week. But just in case one or two of our readers aren’t members and might like to get an excellent selection of education news and also a few articles about teaching, go here and supply your email address to receive this great email news summary. You don’t get lots of junk mail, and NCTE does not sell email addresses (I can vouch that it is a scrupulously honest organization).


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Fun Meme–try it!

This is a meme (information that quickly gets passed around, say, the internet or blogs) that has been going around. I saw it on e-selves. I have edited it slightly. Does anyone else want to try it?

Directions: Choose a band/artist and answer in song TITLES by that band

Choose a band/artist and answer in song TITLES by that band: Depeche Mode.

Are you female or male: Blue Dress
Describe yourself: Work Hard
How do some people feel about you: Happiest Girl
How do you feel about yourself: Smile In The Crowd
Describe where you want to be: The Sun And The Rainfall
Describe what you want to be: Somebody
Describe how you live: Everything Counts; Flexible
Describe how you love: Nothing To Fear
Share a few words of wisdom: Enjoy The Silence

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Have you seen the postmodernism generator? Here’s the link:

Click here

Click refresh for a new essay!

And here’s the link for technorati.

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Somehow I forgot to mention that Rachel Cohn, who wrote Gingerbread, will be at Book People, the next night, Friday, April 8. I’m going to this one, too. Anyone else into YA lit?

BookTEENS Very Special Event: Rachel Cohn presents her new book Shrimp and let’s us know whatever happened with Cyd Charisse and Shrimp
Date: Friday, April 8, 2005 07:00 PM

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Laurie Halse Anderson (the author of “Speak“) and Sarah Dessen (“The Truth About Forever” and “How to Deal”) will be at Book People in April! Anderson’s latest book is called “Prom”.

Date of event: Thursday, April 7, 2005 6:00 PM, Book People (6th/Lamar).
I’m going. If anyone else wants to go, we could all go out for coffee afterwards. (or hang out there).

Click here for more information about this event.

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Great Blogs

Are you interested in new literacies? This blog, by Angela Thomas, at the University of Sydney, is called e-selves…cyberkids, literacy and identity …and other commentary about literature, pop culture, education and amusing internet myths…
Her post from Saturday, March 19th is called From the Post-PhD Blues to Publication Bliss , and it’s an excellent little write-up about having a writing agenda. I found it to be pretty interesting. It’s worth checking out. (remember, the Aussies are one day ahead of us!).
What other blogs have people seen? I’ll put some under the “Links” section.

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This article from “The Desert Sun” (Palm Springs, CA) describes how the new SAT writing test is causing testing anxiety. It also summarizes educators’ perspective on the test itself. Randy is quoted, speaking for NCTE.

The Baltimore Sun has a different perspective on this issue: Click here to read more.

And the state of Illinois has eliminated their writing and social studies tests altogether due to budget constraints. Here’s the article in full, from the Chicago Tribune. What do we think of this?

Illinois cuts testing on 1 of 3 R’s
ISAT drops writing, plus social studies

By Diane Rado
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 11, 2005

For the first time in more than a decade, Illinois students no longer have to take substantive writing exams or tests measuring their knowledge of fundamental principles of U.S. government and history–the result of some of the most severe state testing cutbacks in the nation.

The cuts are playing out this week, as hundreds of thousands of grade school children take the Illinois Standards Achievement Test used to judge school progress.

The state’s 3rd, 5th and 8th graders are taking only reading and math tests, and 4th and 7th graders are taking only science tests. Next month, high school juniors will take pared-down exams in reading, writing and math, the only tests required under the No Child Left Behind federal education reforms.

Wiped out is a writing test that dates to 1990 and was being given to 3rd, 5th, 8th and 11th graders, and a social studies exam for 4th, 7th and 11th graders, first instituted in 1993. Test questions in fine arts, physical development and health were stricken from ISAT tests this year as well.

Lawmakers approved the cuts in July because of state budget constraints. Eliminating the test was estimated to save some $6 million in administration costs.

Criticism of testing has heightened since No Child Left Behind took effect in 2002. The law put extraordinary pressure on schools to ensure that children of all backgrounds perform academically and has led to what critics say is too much test preparation and even cheating in some schools.

While some states have cut back on which grades are tested or made other changes, testing experts and education groups say Illinois is the only state to eliminate its writing exam. In Colorado, legislation to eliminate the writing exam was vetoed in 2003. A year later, Illinois got rid of its writing exam.

“We’re stunned. What can I say?” said Richard Sterling, executive director of the National Writing Project, a nationwide effort to improve youngsters’ writing skills. “It’s a disaster, because you can use writing to learn, to explore ideas and information. It helps you to think.”

Illinois has cut its writing test at the same time that college-entrance tests are emphasizing writing, with SAT adding a new essay section to its test this year and competitor ACT including an optional writing test.

“I think we ought to be embarrassed by what we did,” said state Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), who is leading the charge to restore the writing test by 2006-07.

His bill to reinstate the exam was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week and is headed to the Senate floor for consideration.

A House bill to restore all of the eliminated tests was voted down in a House committee last week, with opposition from an alliance of the state’s major school organizations, including the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Ben Schwarm, the coordinator of lobbying efforts for the alliance, said that with the state facing severe deficits and education funding expected to be tight, school districts would rather have money for overall operating expenses, such as teacher salaries, than test administration.

“We certainly think it’s better to have the funding to teach children rather than test children,” he said.

In fact, some educators criticized the Illinois test as encouraging formulaic writing, heavy on repetition and short on creativity.

Doug Hesse, an English professor at Illinois State University who chairs a national organization for college-level writing teachers, said the state should rethink how it assesses writing, possibly using student portfolios with several writing samples. He said he would oppose reinstating the same writing test that has been used in the past.

Former State School Supt. Glenn “Max” McGee, now a local superintendent in Wilmette, agreed, saying he has recommended to Gov. Rod Blagojevich that the state borrow successful strategies used in local districts for any new statewide writing assessment. “We know we can do a better job of assessing students in writing,” McGee, of District 39, said.

His district now has its own writing exam, which involves evaluating rough drafts as well as final drafts of student writing.

East Maine School District 63 in Des Plaines gives a writing assessment in September, and another in April, to judge student progress. “I feel the pre- and post-assessments are much more valuable than just a one-time snapshot,” said Katherine Ruh, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

Her district has yet to devise its own assessment for social studies but it has not reduced its emphasis on the subject, she said. The district just spent more than $100,000 on social studies teaching materials.

But national social studies organizations are alarmed at what they see as a retreat from such critical subjects as U.S. history, geography and economics, which they blame in part on the narrow testing focus of No Child Left Behind.

In Missouri, the legislature has provided funding only for communications arts and math testing. Since 2003, districts that want to test in science and social studies have to do so at their own cost, said Sharon Schattgen, coordinator of curriculum and assessment for the state education department.

The problem is that, “What gets measured is treasured,” said Roger LaRaus, a retired Evanston school administrator who now teaches social studies methods at the college level and is active in national social studies organizations.

That means teachers will be less willing to spend time on subjects for which there is no high-stakes testing attached.

“People won’t say they’re not teaching social studies,” he said. “But the truth is, they’re not teaching it.”

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