Standardizing, and Erasing, Critical Literacy in High-Stakes Settings
We find ourselves in the midst of intense pressures for assessment and accountability in education systems around the globe, as other authors in this book attest. In the United States, the national urge to hold teachers accountable for student learning is visible in the proliferation of “value-added” models that enable administrators and parents to examine the progress students make on standardized tests in individual teachers’ classrooms (Baker et al., 2010; Felch, Song, & Smith, 2010). While there is still an ongoing debate about the merits of publicizing test scores by teacher name, a debate symptomatic of what I have recently called a national obsession with accountability (Zacher Pandya, 2011), more and more school districts and teachers’ unions have given in to state and federal pressure to use test scores as a means of measuring the value teachers add to students’ learning. In this chapter, I focus on the work of a teacher in just such a high-stakes setting, one where students were supposed to acquire critical literacy skills by making indepth inquiries into various curricular subjects, and where teachers were trained to help students through the standardized process. As the title of this chapter suggests, this pedagogical plan-which I describe herein-was a way of attempting to standardize the teaching of critical literacy skills. Unfortunately, in the end, the plan erased more critical literacy opportunities for children in language arts classes than it afforded.