File spoon-archives/modernism.archive/modernism_2004/modernism.0404, message 4

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2004 13:45:24 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: FYI: NAEP Assessments (fwd)

Hi folks --

See below: Although most modernists are not terribly concerned with the
way American HS literature classes are taught and their students
evaluated, we Americans should be.  Within one to four short years, those
HS students will (or will not)  become English majors in the universities
where we teach.  I have myself discussed at length the failures (and some
successes) of the MLA in persuading its members to look more carefully at
what goes on in public school literature classes (cf. *Style* 34.4 [Winter
2000]: 635-669), but since approximately 2000, the MLA appears to have
abandoned its brief flirtation with the issues of secondary English
teaching.  I hope I am wrong but I have seen no further evidence of any
MLA interest since the millennial year;  fortunately, the ALSC HAS taken
an interest (recently), but these are issues that should involve all of
us.  Just for starters, while I am pleased that the committee has added
the genre of poetry to its assessment plans, I see no evidence of drama as
a separate genre in these proposals.

See below for a policy change that will impact universities in just a few
years: the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) proposals
for curricula to be evaluated by the "national report card" of secondary
education.  You still have a few days to react to these proposals, and if
you have any interest at all in what will happen to the "farm teams" of
the university literature departments, it would be helpful for you to
check out the URLs and respond to these proposals.  Sandra Stotsky has
mentioned some of her concerns (below) and they are worth your time and

(No) Cheers,


John V. Knapp

Professor, Dept. of English;
Editorial Board, *Style;*
Northern Illinois University
330 Reavis Hall                  Office Phone: (815) 753-6632
Dekalb  60115  USA

	To depreciate a Book maliciously, or even wantonly, is
	at least a very ill-natured office; and a morose snarling
	Critic may, I believe, be suspected to be a bad Man.
		Henry Fielding,  *Tom Jones.*
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 12:19:03 -0400
From: ALSC <>
Subject: NAEP Assessments

Dear ALSC members,

Two former presidents of our organization, Roger Shattuck and John
Hollander, have brought to my attention a pending recommendation on the part
of a committee of the National Assessment of Educational Progress that may
adversely affect the curricular readings taught by American secondary school
teachers of English.  I'm consequently forwarding to you a letter from
Sandra Stotsky, currently a member of the NEAP committee, who expresses her
concerns with the current public comment draft document.  The final document
will be vitally important insofar as the No Child Left Behind Act requires
the use of NAEP assessments as part of the establishment of a "national
yardstick" of educational evaluation.  I urge all of our members to take the
time to read Sandra Stotsky's message. I also encourage everyone to read the
NAEP draft document on the publicly available URL and to offer comments upon
the current draft on the electronic form at the same URL.  Please note that
the deadline for all public comments in April 19.

With best wishes,

Michael Valdez Moses
President, Association of Literary Scholars and Critics

Dear ALSC member:

Your comments are needed on a draft of a document that will influence high
school English teachers.  I am on a NAEP (National Assessment of Educational
Progress) committee revising the reading framework for future reading
assessments.  One clear achievement by several of us is getting poetry
assessed on future NAEP tests. It has been excluded so far (even in grade

Below is the URL for the public comment draft of the revised specifications
to be used to generate questions and reading passages for future NAEP
assessments at grades 4, 8, and 12 in English/reading:

These assessments are more important today than they have been in the past
because the No Child Left Behind Act requires use of NAEP assessments as the
national yardstick for evaluating the results of widely differing state
assessments in English/reading (and other subjects).

The deadline for public comment to the National Assessment Governing Board
(NAGB) is April 19.  The form is also on this URL and is very easy to use.
It might take you 10 minutes in all to look over relevant parts of the draft
and make comments, if you want to.

Please look at:
(1) the elaborated definition of reading in the first chapter,
(2) Exhibit 1,  which indicates at each of the three assessed grade levels
    the percentage of literary vs. informational passages to be assessed,
(3) Exhibits 3 and 4, which list the genres from which passages will be
    selected, and
(4) Exhibit 8, which indicates "cognitive targets" for literary and
    non-literary reading.

The final approved version will be a public document that, regardless of
disclaimers, will send a message to high school English teachers about what
kinds and what balance of reading materials they should teach, and, to some
extent, how.

There are two main items to read critically, from my perspective.  First,
the muddled definition of reading; "to understand a text", the first
bullet, has been defined in an extremely basic way in order to allow a
constructivist approach, implied by the definition of the middle bullet
("to develop and interpret meaning"), to dominate all acts of reading
beyond the decoding stage(informational as well as literary).  On the
other hand, the definition doesn't differentiate literary from
non-literary reading so that literary reading may be seen as mainly
informational or analytic (not aesthetic).  Precise wording to revise the
definition would help.

Second, the percentages of literary vs. informational passages in grade 12
will suggest that English teachers in high school should be spending less
time on literature than on informational reading. I think the percentages
in grade 8 and 12 should be reversed.

Feel free to e-mail me at if you wish more information.
Sandra Stotsky

Michael Gouin-Hart
ALSC / Association of Literary Scholars and Critics
650 Beacon Street, Suite 510
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Phone: 617-358-1990 / Fax: 617-358-1995
Email: / Internet :


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