Resolution Proposal to Support: No Confidence in United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan"
NCTE has a long history of taking very strong stands on best practices for the teaching of reading. In the 1999 NCTE Position Statement on Reading, NCTE stated, "Reading is the complex act of constructing meaning from print. We read in order to better understand ourselves, others, and the world around us; we use the knowledge we gain to change the world in which we live." (http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/positiononreading) In addition, the Guideline stated, "All educational stakeholders - educators, policymakers, and the general public - need to understand that they can best support beginning and advanced readers...by acknowledging teachers as curricula decision makers." In addition, the 2004 the NCTE Position Statement On Reading, Learning to Read, and Effective Reading Instruction: An Overview of What we know and How We Know It stated in the "Policies That promote Learning to Read" that policies should, "Respect teachers as professionals, value their knowledge of the students and community they serve..." (http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/onreading) Further, the 2009 Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing, Revised Edition stated, "Quality assessment is a process of inquiry. It requires gathering information and setting conditions so that the classroom, school, and community become centers of inquiry where students, teachers, and other stakeholders can examine their learning-individually and collaboratively-and find ways to improve their practice." (http://www.ncte.org/standards/assessmentstandards). Current educational policy implemented by United States Commissioner of Education Arne Duncan runs totally counter to the great body of NCTE Position Statements. After a 2008 election of hope when President Obama was elected, we still have a national educational policy driven by high stakes testing and evaluation of teachers based on these test scores and the marginalizing of teachers. The Duncan "Race to the Top" policy centers on high stakes testing and engenders unnecessary competition and the giving up of many things important for learning. Learning isn't a race to the top. Learning is a lifelong pursuit.
Mr. Duncan remains silent on celebrating teachers as an important factor in creating effective reading instruction that motivates, engages, and increases reading achievement for our students. In addition, Arne Duncan has misplaced blame on teachers. Children of poverty are the ones who are most at risk. Children of poverty often do not have proper nutrition, live in toxic environments, and do not have proper dental and physical care. A child can't learn when s/he has a toothache or is hungry.
NCTE's Publication Talking Points stated, "A positive school-home connection is critical to ensure the best possible learning environment for children: an environment where school recognizes what's happening at home and home reinforces what's happening at school." (http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/ST/ST0024April1997.pdf). Secretary Duncan has been silent on the importance of building strong school/home/community connections.
In addition, in the interview with Secretary Duncan in the NCTE September 2011 Council Chronicle (Volume 21, No. 1), he belittles all professional conferences, including NCTE's Conference by stating that conferences are, "Irrelevant to 90 percent of folks" and that such conferences have, "No connection to their [teachers] day-to-day reality with folks coming out not being invigorated or learning but resentful" (p. 23).
Given the policies and statements of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that do not support NCTE Position Statements and his dismissive attitude toward all professional conferences, including the NCTE Annual Conference, be it resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English approves a vote of No Confidence in U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Further, NCTE calls upon the Obama Administration to support policies that: