Reaction Paper: Teachers, Policy, CCSS, and NCLB Critique

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The readings this week were fascinating. I feel like the article on Teachers and education policy: Roles and models, by Croll, Abbott, Broadfoot, Osborn, and Pollard (1994) was illuminating in terms of helping me identify my own subconscious beliefs about policy and practice. I think I’ve always felt like policy gets written and then watered down all the way through to where it changes very little of daily practice, but never considered that one was explicitly antagonistic to the other. I conceptualized policy makers and teachers as completely separate, both the people who do it and then ways of doing it, though ideally they would be informed by each other. Furthermore, it seems to me that the “discretionary action by professionals” is part of the system, so it is the job of policy makers to design policies that afford the right outcomes rather than expecting practitioners to figure out what was intended. Figuring out my own assumptions first allowed me to process the other possible models but left me wondering how others intuitively see it.

Speaking of policies and implementation, I found the Gates Foundation Report, Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change (2014) to be vapid. There was no demographic data collected about the teachers, though I suppose it can be assumed that they were predominantly white. The upshot of the report is that they have found that teachers who are engaged like the CCSS and think it will help their students. I think teachers will report positively simply because they are working and putting effort into them. They would probably do this with any curriculum in front of them. Also, the one line of questions that are specifically about the common core all seemed to be phrased positively, like, “Please tell us your opinion on how each of the following has changed, if at all, as a result of implementing the CCSS” such as “Students’ ability to read and comprehend informational texts”. It seemed to me, though I am clearly not a survey expert, that there was a positive bias in the questions themselves. Overall it just felt like Common Core propaganda.

Finally, the NCLB critique by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2006) was compelling and resonated, again, with subconscious and unexamined assumptions. In particular, I am surprised at myself that I never saw the flawed assumptions of teaching as a transmission activity in the NCLB model because it seems so obvious after reading it. This also made me question my research stance a bit, wondering if a more constructivist or constructionist approach might be more appropriate for studying dynamic learning environments. I will say that I am a proponent of alternative certification programs and myself did not have pedagogical training before I started teaching. I learned what I know now through mentorship and a Master’s program while teaching. Right or wrong, I felt prepared to teach in a classroom and was glad for the opportunity to do it right away rather than having to pay for further schooling. If I had had to get a degree after my Bachelors before getting into the classroom, I would never have become a teacher. There are also valid critiques of our own teacher education program and whether they are staying current on the current skills needed by teachers. Alternative certifications allow schools to get good people in the door and train them the way they want them to teach.