Report from Louisiana: ELA Teachers told to Remove Novels from Classrooms

Readability

Report from Louisiana: ELA Teachers told to Remove Novels from Classrooms

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT — One of the unin­tended con­se­quences of Com­mon Core (or what­ever your state’s iter­a­tion of Com­mon Core is) has been an attack on the class­room library and inde­pen­dent reading.

In the move to imple­ment a “Tier 1 cur­ricu­lum,” the first thing to go is any­thing that does not align with that cur­ricu­lum. In Louisiana, a Tier 1 cur­ricu­lum “exem­pli­fies qual­ity.” As defined on the Louisiana Believes web­site, it “meets all non-​negotiable cri­te­ria and scored the best pos­si­ble on all indi­ca­tors of supe­rior quality.”

Louisiana’s ver­sion of Com­mon Core is called Louisiana Believes and in ELA our Tier 1 cur­ricu­lum is Guide­books 2.0 which was “made by teach­ers for teach­ers” and “ensures all stu­dents can read, under­stand, and express their under­stand­ing of com­plex, grade-​level texts.” It began in 2013 when the frame­work was devel­oped and now in 2018 most parishes are well into imple­men­ta­tion of the cur­ricu­lum. In my parish we are in year two.

In at least two parishes there have been reports of ELA teach­ers being asked to remove nov­els, or any­thing that is not Tier 1 mate­r­ial, from their rooms: one report was from south Louisiana and the other report came to me from north­west Louisiana. To pro­tect these teach­ers I will keep their names and parishes pri­vate. In one parish the teacher was able to strike a com­pro­mise with her admin­is­tra­tion after she pro­vided research and doc­u­men­ta­tion on the ben­e­fits of inde­pen­dent reading.

As Don­a­lyn Miller so often makes the case, the research on inde­pen­dent read­ing “is ubiq­ui­tous” and not hard to find.

In defense of these school dis­tricts, I think that part of the prob­lem is that we are so new to the imple­men­ta­tion of this rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent, scripted cur­ricu­lum that some­times admin­is­tra­tors and super­vi­sors may not all be on the same page with regard to what is accept­able and what is not. I can think of no other rea­son to jus­tify why an admin­is­tra­tor might tell a teacher that “inde­pen­dent read­ing has got to go!” or to remove nov­els from the class­room. Some­times these direc­tives vary within a sin­gle dis­trict from school to school.

It is just dif­fi­cult for an ELA teacher to hear that a stu­dent can’t read a book; it’s hard to jus­tify that. And frankly, I don’t know how any­one who calls him­self an edu­ca­tor would tell a teacher that stu­dents can’t read books. One of these teach­ers was told she “is resis­tant” to the new cur­ricu­lum; if that doesn’t sound right out of Ray Brad­bury I don’t know what does.

In fact, the Louisiana Believes web­site even states that the vision for stu­dents is that “Every day, stu­dents in Louisiana should build their knowl­edge of the world, read mean­ing­ful text, express their unique ideas through writ­ing and speak­ing, and attempt com­plex problems.”

Given that, I don’t believe that the Louisiana Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion is truly against stu­dents read­ing books and so I can’t con­ceive of why they would want them removed from class­rooms, yet I have actu­ally talked to two teach­ers where this happened.

It is no secret that I have a class­room library and this has not hap­pened to me; my stu­dents are read­ing AND they are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Louisiana Tier 1 curriculum.

I can only hope that there was some mis­un­der­stand­ing on the part of these two teach­ers and that the issues have been resolved.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — One of the unintended consequences of Common Core (or whatever your state’s iteration of Common Core is) has been an attack on the classroom library and independent reading.

In the move to implement a “Tier 1 curriculum,” the first thing to go is anything that does not align with that curriculum.  In Louisiana, a Tier 1 curriculum “exemplifies quality.”  As defined on the Louisiana Believes website, it “meets all non-negotiable criteria and scored the best possible on all indicators of superior quality.”

Louisiana’s version of Common Core is called Louisiana Believes and in ELA our Tier 1 curriculum is Guidebooks 2.0 which was “made by teachers for teachers” and “ensures all students can read, understand, and express their understanding of complex, grade-level texts.”  It began in 2013 when the framework was developed and now in 2018 most parishes are well into implementation of the curriculum.  In my parish we are in year two.

In at least two parishes there have been reports of ELA teachers being asked to remove novels, or anything that is not Tier 1 material, from their rooms: one report was from south Louisiana and the other report came to me from northwest Louisiana.  To protect these teachers I will keep their names and parishes private.  In one parish the teacher was able to strike a compromise with her administration after she provided research and documentation on the benefits of independent reading.

As Donalyn Miller so often makes the case, the research on independent reading “is ubiquitous” and not hard to find.

In defense of these school districts, I think that part of the problem is that we are so new to the implementation of this radically different, scripted curriculum that sometimes administrators and supervisors may not all be on the same page with regard to what is acceptable and what is not.  I can think of no other reason to justify why an administrator might tell a teacher that “independent reading has got to go!” or to remove novels from the classroom.  Sometimes these directives vary within a single district from school to school.

It is just difficult for an ELA teacher to hear that a student can’t read a book; it’s hard to justify that.  And frankly, I don’t know how anyone who calls himself an educator would tell a teacher that students can’t read books.  One of these teachers was told she “is resistant” to the new curriculum; if that doesn’t sound right out of Ray Bradbury I don’t know what does.

In fact, the Louisiana Believes website even states that the vision for students is that “Every day, students in Louisiana should build their knowledge of the world, read meaningful text, express their unique ideas through writing and speaking, and attempt complex problems.”

Given that, I don’t believe that the Louisiana Department of Education is truly against students reading books and so I can’t conceive of why they would want them removed from classrooms, yet I have actually talked to two teachers where this happened.

It is no secret that I have a classroom library and this has not happened to me; my students are reading AND they are participating in the Louisiana Tier 1 curriculum.

I can only hope that there was some misunderstanding on the part of these two teachers  and that the issues have been resolved.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.