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27 June 2013 @ 05:08 pm
Here comes your 19th nervous breakdown  
Well, I was wondering which newspaper would be the first to spew the faux research from NCTQ. It looks like we have a winner in THE BALTIMORE SUN which ran this piece: http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-76427897/. The title says it all, folks: Poor training for new teachers does permanent harm to students. Here is the money quote: "A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality examined teacher preparation programs at 1,100 colleges and universities and found that almost 4 in 5, a full 78 percent of them, were evaluated as mediocre at best. Less than 5 percent of all programs earn three stars or more."

Here is how this will continue to roll out.

1. More papers will cite the study ignoring the criticisms of both its methodology and its "findings."
2. Colleges of Education will spend way too much time answering this repetition of "facts" that are really not terribly factual.
3. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It is a vicious cycle/circle, and we are already on the precipice of spinning our wheels. I am good and tired of being forced to respond to poor research couched as gospel. In the past few weeks, we have seen a "study" by Renaissance Leaning (AR) cited as an indicator that kids from 100 years ago read better books than they do today. We have seen that same study last year spawn a hue and cry about the poor reading levels of books we use (including NIGHT and some other important novels and books). We have seen CCSS become widespread despite the criticisms about elements being developmentally inappropriate, that the authors had little or no experience as actuall classroom teachers, and that the architects refused to allow input from theliteracyy professionals who were eager to help.

How much will we tolerate here? Should someone see my reading list for YA literature and write a piece about the filthy books I use to teach my course (many are on the banned book list). How would I respond to someone who criticizes that I use authentic literature written in this century or decade instead of the canon of classics deemed acceptable by others? I have been teaching for some time now, longer than some of you have been alive let alone in a classroom. I think I am getting better at it. I think I understand how to do my work (and I do not even like that term or the term "job" as I find it more of a vocation) well. I have the strength to stand up to critics. But I worry about those new teachers, the ones the article in The Baltimore Sun are critical of. If they want to stand up and run classrooms as reading-writing workshops in a time of CCSS, what kind of blowback can they expect. I would rather my students leave my college classes able to defend intellectual freedom, the right to read, CHOICE in books, reading for pleasure, discussion in lieu of busy work. I want them to leave with a working knowledge of the wonders books hold for their students and for themselves.

Last night, after spending more than 7 hours in delays getting home, I finished the last pages of Andrew Smith's incredible WINGER. I was happy the cabin of the aircraft was dark because I was busy wiping away tears, busy scratching down the words I wanted to recall, busy re-reading those final chapters. I flashed back to a video Penny Kittle had shared with me: three high school boys talking about their reading lives. I immediately thought of the one young man who would love this book as much as I did (and I swear, Penny, I am mailing it to you along with the other promised book when I get back from ALA). Kids lived can be transformed; we know that. But if colleges of education tumble, and classics replace YA, and kids all do the same darn thing on the same day, and PARCC creeps ahead (shudder!), then I do worry more and more about those new teachers, the ones who will leave the profession much more quickly because they are not permitted to teach nor to grow as a teacher.

So, I will keep up my end of the battle against (as NCTQ puts it) mediocrity by pointing out that books save, that teachers save lives (go back to Twitter and search #boothbay13 for words from Chris Crutcher and others about this), and that we need to stand up and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
 
 
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