The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in recent American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.
Topic: Classroom Policy
Title: “On the Margins in a High-Performing High School: Policy and the Struggling Reader.” JK Franzak. Research in the Teaching of English (May 2008), 466-505. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). The audience for the journal is all levels.
Summary: Studies official classroom policies in teaching literature and reading in high school and finds that “phantom policies,” policies believed by the classroom teachers to be policies, conflict with the “inscribed” (official) policies developed in the district office. The phantom policies, assumed by the teachers, controlled instruction. Example of a phantom policy: 9th grade must teach Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey. With no evidence of the existence of such a policy, teachers believed that they were required to teach these two works of literature.
“Most apparent is the deeply ingrained belief that teachers do not formulate policies because policy originates outside the classroom as part of a political process.” p. 470.
“Since the inscribed [official] policies of the school did not acknowledge the existence of struggling readers, it was not surprising that the school lacked a means of identifying students who could use additional support in reading.” p. 495.
“The lack of adequate inscribed or phantom policy focusing on reading instruction meant that the teachers did not explicitly engage in reading instruction.” p. 497.
“The implication of the lack of inscribed [official] policy regarding struggling readers was clear. It was the students’ responsibility to adapt to the discourse of high school English.” p. 498.
The general conclusion of the authors is that teachers need to be involved in the development of the inscribed [official] policies.
Comment: Whew! “Policies” already. In my day they were curriculum guides, developed by teachers in the summer to be taken by teachers as suggestions for dealing with problems in teaching English. Teachers used those ideas and practices that they found helpful and, frankly, ignored the rest. The assumption was that teachers knew best how to teach. What comes around goes around. I predict that “policies” developed by administrators in the district office as a result of No Child Left Behind will be replaced by curriculum guides developed by teachers. Problems will still exist on how to help teachers who were not members of the summer workshop see the advantages of practices that will be good for kids, like the struggling readers in this study. RayS.