Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shift Doesn't Just Happen, We Have to Make it Happen

During the 2008 NCTE Convention in late November, the Commission on Language sponsored a session featuring Stephen Krashen as the keynote speaker. After Stephen Krashen discussed his advocacy efforts through letters to the editor, audience members were asked to identify significant advocacy issues and got into groups to discuss possible avenues for advocacy.

The group I joined discussed the issue of scripted reading programs. The group members agreed that when advocating against scripted reading programs, we should be trying to reach a number of different stakeholder audiences: legislators, teachers, school boards, parents, superintendents.

The list below includes advocacy ideas proposed by group members. Some of the ideas are audience-specific, whereas others can be used to reach more than one audiences:

•Run a positive Public Relations campaign to highlight what your district, school or classroom is doing well. Accentuate initiatives that lead to significant student learning.
Possible venues for such positive PR campaigns can be local papers (featured articles, letters to the editor), parent nights, community fairs.

•Reach out to local businesses and to the local NPR station and ask them to fund or otherwise support sound bytes that make references to student and teacher accomplishments. Examples:
•"This program is sponsored by Ms. Smith's class, whose members just completed authoring a superb collection of electronic nonfiction books on social justice issues."
•"XY Company supports Mr. Green and his students whose work with literacy and the arts is currently being exhibited at Hillside Elementary school."

•Use your school's web page to showcase your students' web projects and email the link to parents and the school board. Such student project galleries should also feature instructional objectives accomplished through each project as well as explanations how such powerful learning tools are disappearing through the narrowing of the curriculum brought upon by high-stakes accountability and scripted instruction.

•Conduct research with your students on the effects of scripted instruction on their learning and their attitude toward school work. Send your findings to all interested stakeholders.

•Organize teacher "get togethers," both physical and electronic through the use of blogs and other electronic forums.
•Create wanted-ads forums through which teachers can seek out collaborators for instructional planning, designing and conducting research, mentoring etc.