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de-testing and de-grading schools

Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization


Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas

A century of education and education reform, along with more than three decades of high-stakes testing and accountability, reveals a disturbing paradox: education has a steadfast commitment to testing and grading. This commitment persists despite ample research, theory, and philosophy revealing the corrosive consequences of both testing and grading in an education system designed to support human agency and democratic principles. This revised edited volume brings together a collection of updated and new essays that confronts the failure of testing and grading. The book explores the historical failure of testing and grading; the theoretical and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; the negative influence of tests and grades on social justice, race, class, and gender; and the role that they play in perpetuating a deficit perspective of children. The chapters fall under two broad sections. Part I, Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education, includes essays on the historical, theoretical, and philosophical arguments against testing and grading. Part II, De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform, presents practical experiments in de-testing and de-grading classrooms for authentic learning experiences.
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Chapter Ten: “How Long Does This Have to Be?”: Confronting the Standardization of Writing Instruction with Teachers in National Writing Project Invitational Summer Institutes


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“How Long Does This Have TO Be?”

Confronting the Standardization of Writing Instruction with Teachers in National Writing Project Invitational Summer Institutes


Selected teachers mill around the room of the 2010 Northwest Arkansas Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute (ISI), resigned that this will be one of their shortest summers yet, waiting not so patiently for the coffee urn to finish its thing and bare the fruits of its labor. Scott Sullivan, a returning fellow, unloads bag after bag of snacks that he swears jumped into his cart that morning, including peanut butter–filled pretzels. We look at one another and know that resistance is futile. Nervousness and excitement hang thick in the air, bouncing off of one person and reflecting on another. If tradition holds—I’m referring to the 40-year-old tradition of the ‘ISI’—over the next four weeks, these teachers will write, cry, laugh, eat, drink, and teach together, becoming so much more than the sum of the multitalented and multifaceted individual teachers they are. Most importantly, they’ll take steps towards becoming writers and better writing teachers. They’ll form a community bond that could last decades, perhaps even the remainders of their lives. I have not personally experienced anything in education like the ISI of a writing project site.

Returning fellow Mike Thomas rings his chimes that he purchased to help us stay on time throughout the summer institute....

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