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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 15, no. 18 (September 10, 2007).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c September 10, 2007
Fissures in standards formulation : the role of neoconservative and neoliberal discourses in justifying standards development in Wisconsin and Minnesota/ Samantha Caughlan [and] Richard Beach.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
Readers are free to copy display, and distribute this article, as long as the work is attributed to the author(s) and Education Policy Analysis Archives, it is distributed for noncommercial purposes only, and no alte ration or transformation is made in the work. More details of this Creative Commons license are available at http:/ /creativecommons.org/licen ses/by-nc-nd/2.5/. All other uses must be approved by the author(s) or EPAA EPAA is published jointly by the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State Universi ty and the College of Educ ation at the University of South Florida. Articles are indexed by H.W. Wilson & Co. Please contribute commentary at http://epaa.info/wordpress/ and send errata notes to Sherman Dorn (firstname.lastname@example.org). EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Sherman Dorn College of Education University of South Florida Volume 15 Number 18 September 10, 20 07 ISSN 10682341 Fissures in Standards Formulation: The Role of Neoconservative and Neoliberal Discourses in Justifying Standards Developm ent in Wisconsin and Minnesota Samantha Caughlan Michigan State University Richard Beach University of Minnesota Citation: Caughlan, S., & Beach, R. (2007). Fi ssures in standards form ulation: The role of neoconservative and neoliberal discourses in justifying standards development in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 15 (18). Retrieved [date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v15n18/. Abstract An analysis of English/language arts standards development in Wisconsin and Minnesota in the late 19 90s and early 2000s shows a process of compromise between neoliberal and neocon servative factions involved in promoting and writing standards, with the voices of educator s conspicuously absent Interpretive and critical discourse analyses of versions of English/language arts standards at the high school level and of pu blic documents related to standards promotion reveal initial conflicts betw een neoconservative and neoliberal discourses, which over time were integrated in final standards documents. The content standards finally released for use in guidin g curriculum in each state were bland and incoherent documents that refl ected neither a de ep knowledge of the field nor an acknowledgement of what is likely to en gage young learners. The study suggests the need for looking more critic ally at standards as political documents, and a greater
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 2 consideration of educators expertise in the process of their future development and revision. Keywords: standards; policy development; language; discourse; neoconservative; neoliberal. Fisuras en la formulaci n de los estndar es: El papel de los discursos Neoconservadores y Neoliber ales en la justificacin de los estndares curriculares en Minnesota y Wisconsin Resumen Nuestro anlisis del desarrollo de los estndares en Wisconsin y Minnesota en los ltimos aos de la dcada de los 90 e inicios de los 2000s muestra un proceso de acuerdo entre las facciones neoliberal y neoconservadoras involucradas en promover y escribir los estndares, mientr as que las voces de los educadores eran visiblemente ausentes. Anlisis interpretativos y de discur so crtico de algunas de las versiones de los estndares del idioma Ingls para escuelas secundarias y de documentos pblicos relacionados con la promocin de los estndares revela conflictos iniciales entre la s propuestas neoconservadora s y neoliberales, que luego de un tiempo se fueron integrando en los documentos finale s de los estndares. Los estndares de contenidos que se hicieron pblicos pa ra orientar los planes de estudio de en cada estado eran docu mentos dbiles e incoherentes que no reflejaban un conocimiento profundo del campo ni tamp oco un reconocimiento de que estimulara el aprendizaje de los estu diantes jvenes. Este estudio sugiere la necesidad de mirar ms crt icamente los estndares como documentos polticos, y una mayor consideracin de la experiencia de los educadores en futuros proceso de desarrollo y revisin. Introduction In this report, we examine the development of secondary English language arts standards in Wisconsin and Minnesota to illustrate the influence of two competing discourses: neoliberal and neoconservative discourses of education that were invoked by various persons and groups involved in formulating these standards. Based on interpreti ve and critical discourse analysis of these standards, we identify various tensions and contradi ctions associated with the application of these two discourses to standards formulation. While these discourses reflect larger shared agendas associated with the assumed need for standards, we will identify competing agendas driving the justifications and construction of English language arts standards in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Having to compromise between these competing agendas resulted in often bland, problematic standards that perpetuate status quo practices. Varying functions of standards The word standard as applied to education is a slippery term, as standards can serve a variety of pedagogical, cultural, or political functions. A standard can be merely a criterion to use for comparison, in wh ich case it can stand at any point along a range, from bottom allowable to height of excellence. Standards in this sense can serve to create a hierarchy of desired practices, where certain practi ces are considered more desirable than others, with display of the desired practices functioning as goals for students to achieve. Once such a standard has been codified, it is then possible to assess students as meeting or exceed it. For example, because the goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation is that all students will meet
Fissures in Standards Formulation 3 or exceed all standards at the level labeled proficien t based on standardized test scores by the year 2014, this law implies that this condition w ill be an improvement over present educational achievement in this country, while at the same time requiring a standard set low enough that all students can meet it. Standards can also function to foster curriculum development through definition of desired learning outcomes and methods to achieve those outcomes. When the National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association st andards were written and published in the mid1990s, they functioned as a spur to discussion among educators as to what should be the goals of English language arts instruction. These standards were criticized for being vague, but according to NCTE and IRA, they were not intended to be more than a general framework designed to promote thinking about the various aspects of English lang uage arts and the overall goals of producing a literate and thoughtful citizenry without dictati ng means or materials to teachers working as professionals in a wide range of contexts. More recently, there has been a marked shift in the function of standards in that they are now linked to a drive for accountability from both students and teachers based on standardized test scores as the sole determination as to whether one has achieved a standard. This shift, we will argue, reflects the adopt ion of a neoliberal discourse of business accountability meshed with positivist psychometric measurement theory, presupposing that one can specify a certain cut point score as meeting proficiency in that standard, just a salesperson can be judged as meeting or not meeting their sales quota for a certain time period. Educational standards are politically framed as functioning to motiva te both students and teachers through a rhetoric of leaving no child behind given their potential to ac hieve excellence through striving to meet high, world class standards (Thompson, 1997a, p. 1) This framing of the accountability function of standards overlooks the reality that students do not reach a singular standard, but exhibit a profile of different strengths and weaknesses in diffe rent areas and at different times. However, because standards are now immutably linked to standardized test scores deemed to be valid measures of reading ability or anothe r construct, it is then assumed that the focus of the English language arts curriculum should foc us on preparing students to achieve proficiency on standardized reading tests. Rather than assess learning based on a rich set of performance assessments, using, for example, writ ing portfolios, what has evolved, for reasons we go into below, is the goal of measuring levels of achievement of a rather narrow range of tasks undertaken by all learners of a certain age at a particular moment in time in each state. In order to make such snapshots possible and affordable, multiple-choice measures are usually relied upon. To make the participants take them seriously, there must be serious rewards for accomplishment or consequences for failure. And to make this even remotely fair, st ates must then clearly state what tasks can be expected at each grade level. This has turned standards into static and limited documentsin our view, neither a necessary nor desirable outcome. Why and how did the function of standards evolve to serve this narrowing of the focus of schooling to test preparation, particularly for schoo ls serving low SES students? In this paper, we discuss the development of English/language stan dards in Wisconsin and Minnesota based on the ideological assumptions underlying rationales for the functions of standards, rationales that reflect another basic functionthe use of standards to promote political agendas. For example, a politician may endorse the need for high standards to promote his or her image as someone who is concerned about education. To unpack these ideological assumptions, we employ Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to examine certain discourses as ways of knowing or thinking used to frame standards justifications (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999; Fa irclough, 1995, 2001, 2003; Gee, 1996). Discourses of the law,
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 4 religion, science, psychology, business, or education, as reflected in language use and social practices, reflect power hierarchies in society. As Norman Fairclough (2002) notes: Language represents or constructs a so cial reality, it positions readers and listeners, it creates identities and relati ons, it creates a voice for the one who would speak or write, and, thus, there ar e clear implications for who can speak, what can be said, who and what is valued, w ho and what counts in education. (p. 3) We will demonstrate a general ap plication of interpret ive and critical discourse analysis to standards formulation in an analysis of the deve lopment of two competing sets of standards for English language arts standards for Wisconsin, focusing on a specific analysis of two letters associated with competin g standards in Wisconsin. We will also discuss the deve lopment of the Minnesota Profile of Learning English language arts standards during the 1990s and then the critique and replacem ent of the Profile by an alternative set of standard s in 2003. In both cases, standards formulation wa s shaped by both a neoliberal fo cus on the need to frame literacy instruction within the context of marketplace flexibility and accountability and neoconservative discourses framing instruction in terms of teachin g traditional content in opposition to cultural diversity, framing which in some cases overlapp ed and in other cases diverged. In conducting this analysis, we hope to demonstrate how these competing discourses obstruct true reform of literacy instruction, ignore the need for critical li teracy, and result in our current situation, where those who educate our children feel disengaged from the institutio ns within which they work. Standards Development: The Influence of Neoliberal a nd Neoconservative Discourses The Perceived Need for Standards It is widely known that the standards moveme nt grew out of calls in the 1980s and early 1990s for more rigorous curricula and more accounta bility for results in the public schools. The oftcited 1983 document, A Nation at Risk by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, raised the alarm that America was falling behind in the global economy, largely because of the poor preparation of its workforce in schools. Throughout the 1990s, various groups (particularly business groups and allied groups of politicians such as th e National Governors Association) promoted the notion that American schools were pe rforming poorly compared to schools in other countries. All of this was framed in terms of the future ec onomic survival of American society that required complete reform of schooling. This accompanied a tendency towards marketization of school discourse, as schools were increasingly positioned as operating as agents for economic interests (Bartlett, Frederick, Gulbrandsen & Murillo, 2002). The resultant movement towards accountability, standardization of inputs and outputs, and the si multaneous portrayal of students as both products and consumers of the same system led to standard s-based reform of schooling in America, initiated by federal legislation in the early 1990s mandating that states adopt standards or lose their federal funding ( America, 2000: An Educational Strategy 2000). This early rhetoric promoting standards promised a clear, rigorous statement of the best thinking and best practice within each subject area. However, this means that standards are built on a discourse of consensus that papers over real disagreements over what constitutes best practice and best thinking.
Fissures in Standards Formulation 5 A Discourse of Consensus One of the arguments for standards is that they provide a state-wide framework for teachers so that they have a clear sense of shared curriculum expectations (Cohen & Hill, 2000; Grant, 2000). This expectation assumes a consensus among educat ors, politicians, and parents regarding the desirability of achieving a certain set of standa rds (Shannon, 2001). This discourse of consensus encompasses the social, academic, and cultural aspects of schooling. From a neoliberal model, managers need to fr ame policies and initiatives so that different constituencies in an organization are on the same page in terms of achieving the same results or outcomes (Shannon, 2001). Teachers and students ar e to acquire those particular literacy practices deemed important by the combined expertise of ed ucators, politicians, and parents for success in the workplace, as opposed to engaging in what are per ceived as idiosyncratic, unique practices. This consensus is often achieved by a rhetorical appeal to marketplace analogies in which schooling is framed as an expensive commodity that would be more efficient if driven by competition and results-based accountability, increasing the quali ty of commodities and lowering their price, thus leading to improved schooling and reductions in taxes (Cambourne, 2006). This appeal for consensus is also achieved by an appeal to scien tific research: for example, the case of literacy instruction used to promote phonics-only instruction in California (Woodside-Jiron, 2004). These common sense rhetorical appeals to what-works research framed the need for standards related to phonics-only instruction in ways that identifies, verifies, finds, and reaffirms conclusions in an authoritative, definitive manner (Woodside-Ji ron, 2004, p. 199; emphasis in original). This discourse of consensus is also eviden t in neoconservative common sense moral appeals to offset the decline in cultural values through adopting strict father cultural models (Lakoff, 2002) to address issues of censorship, sex educat ion, evolution, multicultural education, and vouchers through adopting definitive, nonnegotiable, get tough stances (Apple, 2003). This need for a definitive moral stance appeals to fears associ ated with the increased diversity of society related to racial, cultural, linguistic, and religious admixtur e (Singh & Han, 2006, p. 48), implying the need for unambiguous standards related not only to schooling, but also for a society at large framed as losing its standards, identified with practices trad itionally valued by white, middle-class Americans. From the perspective of complexity theory (Bowers, 1995), this need for consensus represents an attempt to impose a sense of cont rol and predictability onto schools characterized by complex, unpredictable systems of learning that vary according to local needs and contexts (Stevens, 2006). These discourses of control are particularly evident in what Weis (1990, 2004) describes as intellectual control evident in transmission models of instruction prevalent in urban schools with largely working-class populations, schools whose liter acy curriculums in the present climate are most often driven by teaching to the test. The assumed consensus around shared standard s also attempts to mask value differences associated with competing beliefs and philosophies. Analysis of the development of the National Council of Teachers of English/International Read ing Association language arts/reading national standards indicated a high level of disagreement regarding the focus, curriculum philosophy, valued instructional approaches, and strategies for implementation (Mayher 1999; Shannon, 2001), disagreement that reflected the inevitable differen ces across different disciplinary and philosophical perspectives associated with teaching of language arts and reading. One of the reasons that the NCTE/IRA standards were written as relatively gene ral standards was to allow for variations in their implementation across local contexts, a level of ge nerality that also serves to mask alternative ideological perspectives associated with implementing standards.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 6 Based on their analysis of the California standa rds for English and social studies, Sleeter and Stillman (2005) note that adopting this definitive, non-controversial stance mitigates the need for alternative perspectives and invites compliance: Although the content standards in both disciplines rest within a specific ideology, they are presented as if there were no serious ideological debates to consider. Both present a detailed curriculum outline, and both give enough verbal recognition to cultural, racial, and linguist ic diversity that teachers without a deep understanding of diverse intellectual funds of knowledge, diverse ideological perspectives, and effe ctive pedagogy for diverse students might see the standards as fully inclusive. The use of discipli nary experts as curriculum document writers and the use of scientific rese arch about reading encourage compliance. (p. 43) Given their function to impose consensus onto schools, standards are then formulated in a manner that denies the necessi ty for grappling with competin g value perspect ives. Within a discourse of consensus, all histor ical and cultural forces are presumed to be relatively equal, negating a need for a means of determining histor ical or cultural difference that would lead to surfacing controversy in the classroom. Variation among State Standards However, in spite of an implied consensus regarding standards, states varied in the nature and scope of their standards formulation (Furhman, 2001), especially in the decade preceding the passage of NCLB in 2002. Some states, such as Virginia, formulated standards based on teaching subject-matter content, positing that students wo uld acquire certain specific content and then would be tested using multiple-choice tests to determine if that content was being acquired (Duke, Butin, & Sofka, 2003) This content focus led to increased teaching to the test and use of transmission, direct-instruction methods to prepare students for tests (Firestone & Mayrowetz, 2000). Other states such as Kentucky, Vermont, and Minnesota adop ted more constructivist-based, show-what-youknow standards that emphasize students learni ng through hands-on participation in learning activities (Avery, Beach, & Coler, 2003). In this approach, learning is then evaluated using various performance-assessment measures ranging from constructed response items (short answer) to demonstrations of performance, such as conducting a science experiment or giving a persuasive speech. In contrast to the use of multiple-choice tests, the use of performance assessments is thought to challenge students in ways that allow for individual strengths and diversity in thinking (Eisner, 1999; Meier, 2000; Wiggins, 1998). Analysis of standards construction at the state level reveals that these differences reflect different ideological assumptions or discourses shaping the content and evaluation of standards, differences shaped by larger political agendas and interest groups (Furhman, 2001; Shannon, 2001; Tremmel, 2000). An analysis of the development of state standards in Missouri indicated that educators attempts to formulate constructivist standards faced opposition from politicians and parents favoring content standards, resulting in compromises that attempted to balance both content and process in relatively bland, value-neut ral formulations (Placier, Walker, & Foster, 2002). What the form of standards and the discourse of consensus deny are the ways in which curriculum always reflects competing ideological agendas at play in any context.
Fissures in Standards Formulation 7 How Ideology Works in Shaping Curriculum In his theory of codes of power operating in curriculum, Basil Bernstein (1975; 2000) provides a mechanism by which curriculum is shaped by ideology. He examines the degree to which curriculum content may be highly separate, bounded, and hierarchical according to a focus on accumulation of core knowledge, a collection code versus an integrated code in which the curriculum is organized according to knowledge construction and thematic connections to everyday life. In discussing the evolution of knowledge to the cla ssroom, Bernstein (2000) identifies three fields: production in which new knowledge is constructed, reproduction in which curriculum is developed, and recontextualizing in which discourses from production are transformed into instruction. In recontextualizing of knowledge, various ideologica l forces can shape the curriculum focus by certain groups representing certain interests (Apple, 2004a; Bernstein, 2000). Because these groups often exclude teachers fr om setting educational policy, teachers and students lose their influence over classroom curriculum, what Bernstein defined as framing (1975, p. 89). A curriculum with strong framing allows for little teacher or student control while a curriculum with weak framing allows for more local control in decisions about curriculum. Drawing on Bernsteins categories, Sleeter and Stillman (200 5) described how a shift from integrated to collection curriculum codes influenced language ar ts instruction, both across the nation and in the California language arts and social studies curriculu m. This shift was justified by an appeal to a discourse of science: State and federal government s define science to mean studies that claim to be value-neutral and rely heavily on quantitative methods. Reading and language arts particularly were affected by the semina l scientific study supporting phonics instruction, commonly called The Foorman Study (Foorman et al., 1998) and sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (p. 32) This reliance on a discourse of science as some thing that is inarguably good is part of the discourse of assumed consensus that undergirds the standards apparatus. In reality, a number of researchers have protested the use of the NI CHD studies, which relied heavily on small numbers of learning-disabled and at-risk students, as the basis for statewide reading guidelines for all students (Allingto n & Woodside-Jiron, 1999; G ee, 1999; Taylor, 1998). The increasing hegemony of strong framing go es along with what Bernstein (2000) describes as the growing dominance of the official recontextualizing field (ORF) over the pedagogic recontextualizing field (PRF) (p. 33). The PRF consists of pedagogues: teachers, professors of education, writers and researchers in educational journals and private foundations. The ORF consists of politicians and bureaucrats working for the state, with no necessary expertise in education. In the United States, the ORF field works closely with the business community in such contexts as the 1990s governors summits which even tually resulted in standards legislation at the state and federal level. The observed result of th e dominance of the ORF in the English-speaking countries Bernstein observes is a reduction of au tonomy and struggle over pedagogic discourse and practice, which is evidenced in the discourse of consensus. Battling Ideologies in the U.S.: Neoli beralism and Neoconservatism Among the discourses shaping standards, Faircl ough (2003) cites the example of a discourse of neoliberal third way capitalism that repres ents the economy in terms of globalism, in which rapid change and competition within and between mu ltinational corporations is central to economic
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 8 success. This fast-track capitalism discourse justif ies such practices as outsourcing jobs by evoking the need to be concerned with efficiency and the bottom line in a global economy. This discourse of neoliberalism, as we will explain further, has greatly influenced standards formulation in its treatment of teachers as interchangeable workers, it s focus on efficiency, and its strong concern with accountability. Neoliberal conceptions of a market-driven society with little government regulation and accelerating change can lead to an increased ne oconservative push for strong state control of curriculum content and testing (Apple, 2004b). Mi chael Apple (2004b) posits that discourses of business management promote a masculinist n eed for control of schooling consistent with conservative values. Both Apple and Bernstein (200 0) discuss the potential conflicts in conservative circles between a concern with conserving the countr ys traditional heritage and values and the push to prepare workers for a changing workplace. We discuss ways in which these conflicts are negotiated in further detail below. In our analys is we examined how these two prominent ideological frameworks shaped the standards conflicts in the U.S. in general, and in the development of standards in Wisconsin and Minnesota, in partic ular. These ideologies entail consequences for standards: whether they follow a content or constructivist bent, whether they have a stronger relationship with the economy of the future or the heritage of our past. Neoliberal Discourses and the Support for Standards Neoliberal Discourses of Society Neoliberal third-way discourses of so ciety frame society according to economic and business models and forces associated with increased privatization, deregulation, efficiency, globalization, and accountability to bottom-line resul ts. Such forces exist in opposition to fostering public, government-sponsored programs to assist pe ople, as well as collective social and political activity to further social justice and economic equa lity (Apple, 2001; 2004a; 2004b). In perceiving individuals as producers and consumers in a market economy more than as citizens contributing to larger social, public good, neoliberals promo te individual, private, competitive needs and consumption (Weiner, 2003). According to Eric Weiner (2003), neoliberalism values economic efficiency leading to high worker productivity bu t at reduced wages and benefits traditionally protected by unions, collective bargaining, and state policies. It supports the need for market forces as shaping policies as opposed to collective political action. For Weiner, underlying neoliberalism is a discourse of needs (p. 26) that values the indi vidual's needs and consum ption as a byproduct of the economic, market-driven system. When applied to education, this discourse of needs seeks to achieve specific outcomes over the process of lear ning, the instrumental value over the intrinsic value of schooling, and quantitative indexes of learning over the qualitative indexes. Adopting a business/accountability model entails the need to make data-driven policy decisions based on bottom-line results through standardized measures (Cuban, 2005). This focus on efficiency and results creates the need for what Mi chael Apple (2001, 2003) de scribes as an audit culture in which performances by various groups in societypublic employees, doctors, managers, and other groupsare continually evaluated using measurement techniques in ways that can undermine alternative ways of defining effective ness. This need for standardization denies the realities of race, class, and gender difference th rough adopting a technicist discourse, a discourse of experts, professional competence, and boundar y maintenance (McCarthy, Giargina, Harewood, & Park, 2003, p. 456) that rejects critical discours es associated with postmodern, cultural studies,
Fissures in Standards Formulation 9 Marxist, and postcolonial perspectives. Adopting this technicist discourse of standardization leads to a strategic alienation of the other in forms of kn owledge-building, genres of representation, and the deployment of moral, emotional and affective ev aluation and investments (p. 456) evident in a perspective shared with neoconservatives. A Neoliberal Discourse of School Standards The crisis orientation of the 1980s and 1990s positioned American students as failing and falling behind in American schools, while the econo my suffered as a result of second-rate schooling. For example, Louis Gerstner (2002), CEO of IBM Corporation, noted, The need to strengthen American educat ion is still urgent. Last fall, college professors and employers were asked to assess the writing proficiency of high school graduates. Three-quarters of both grou ps rated graduates as poor or fair on writing. Two-thirds rated graduates as poor or fair in math. Too few children are getting what they need out of our pu blic schools, and the performance gap between white and minority students is unacceptable. Employers are well aware of deficiencies in education; they see how hard it is for young adults with inadequate prep aration to move into the workplace. Any retreat from our national and state effo rts now not only would harm students but would limit our competitive position in the global marketplace. (p. A3) One element of this discourse is that it fram es the public education system as static and impervious to change, requiring the imposition of outside activity systemsbusiness and the political systemto step in and force change on intransigent schools. A neoliberal discourse also promotes the market-place value of having private schools create competition for public schools, assuming that private schools are more accountable to parents an d are more innovative than public schools, even thou gh research does not support such claims (Benveniste, Carnoy, & Rothstein, 2003; Buras & Apple, 2005). This discourse of crisis and change often permeates sensationalized media reports of schooling that dramatize the shortcomings or fail ures of schooling, necessitating the need for change. For example, an analysis of a Queensland newspapers release of an education report found that the paper dramatized the schools as being in crisis, privileging the perspectives of external political and business groups over educators voices (Thomas, 2003). The result of these discourses of crisis has been calls for greater standardizati on of curriculum and greater accountability of schools and teachers regarding student progress within and across communities. This push for more accountability drew heav ily on discourses of business management as evident in documents produced by business advocacy groups such as Achieve, Inc. (funded by IBM), the Business Roundtable, the Business-High Education Forum, the Committee for Economic Development, and the Twentieth Century Fund, as well as neoconservative philanthropies and think tanks (e.g. the Education Excellence Network, Em power America, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Thomas Fordham Foundation), neoliberal philanthropies and think tanks (e.g. the Carnegie Corporation, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the National Commission on Education and the Economy) who promote the need for technical solutions thro ugh standardization of schooling, and quasigovernmental groups (e.g. the National Gover nors Association, the Education Consortium of States, the Council of Chief State School Officer s) who promote policy recommendations from the other three groups who are funded by and linked to various business or political interests (Tremmel, 2000). These business and economic interests ad vocate the application of business or economic
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 10 models and discourses derived from total-quality management models popular in the 1980s designed to assess worker productivity in terms of clearl y-defined, measurable outcomes. Much of this reliance on standardized testing reflects what Norman Fairclough (2002) describes as a discourse of managerialism that adopts a distanced, technocratic stance which disallows the speaking of concern, of welfare, of collective experience, of th e whole human person, of emancipation! (p. 2). This discourse of managerialism can, at times, reduce the project of education to cost-benefit analyses. A report by former Minnesota Education Commissioner, Cheri Yecke (2005), Efficiency and Effectiveness in Minnesota School Districts: How Do Districts Compare? analyzed the perpupil costs related to measures of effectivene ss as determined by high school graduation rates. Pointing out that one objective measure of school effectiveness is graduation rates, Yecke suggests that they can also be used to calculate efficiency, aligning the percentage of students who graduate with the districts cost per pupil. This emphasi s on efficiency frames the management of schooling solely in economic terms, as opposed to theories or philosophies of teaching and learning or the role of schooling in addressing issues in society. In this analysis, school effectiveness is determined solely in terms of a quantitative measure of graduation rate s, a measure that does not take into account all of the economic and cultural factors shaping high school drop-out rates. The effect on teachers. Fairclough notes that such discourse serves to frame teachers as part of a larger corporate structure that emphasizes productivity, efficiency, and performance, which disallows teachers from expressing alternative voices or perspectives: I would suggest that there is a disjunctu re, a widening gap, between the values, beliefs and practices of many teachers and the emergent corporatism or managerialism in educationa dominant di scourse is one of st rategy, efficiency and performance, constructing education as a rational instrument. (Fairclough, 2002, pp. 12) Fairclough (2002) argues that central to this ma nagerialism in education is the use of statistical measures of quality that se rve as seemingly objective representations of learning: So-called objective standa rds of assessment are abst ractions, a very long way away from lived reality. Th e numbers in a league table result from a wide range of varied experiences, which have been pass ed through various ty pes of interpretive filters. A pupil attends school day in day out fo r many years, becoming enculturated (more or less su ccessfully) into school pr actices and discourses. The educational achievement of this pupil is then measured and sc ored in some sort of standard test, the scores from which become part of the numerical information which is drawn on in the constr uction of the league table. As Lemke (1995: 63) points out, the idea of a t est score condenses a complex process. (p. 4) The increased use of a busine ss management discourse serv ed to challenge teachers professionalism, a trend similar to those decreasing the professional status of doctors, lawyers, and other professional groups. Ohmann (2003) ar gues that much of the increased focus on management represents a challenge to the status of teachers as professionals, a challenge he also finds evident in the health-care industry, increa singly influenced by management practices. This discourse of de-professionalization positions teachers as needing to be subject to the same demands placed on workers in businessif th ey dont produce or live up to their quotas, they should not be rewarded. This served to justif y the need for measurable results that could be used to determine, as in business, whether teachers are being productive in raising test scores. As part of the reauthorization of NCLB, a bill identi fied as the All Children Can Achieve Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that includ es evaluating teacher effectiveness based on increases in students test scores over a four -year period. Teachers who do not demonstrate
Fissures in Standards Formulation 11 effectiveness in five years would face sanctions This causal link between teachers and student performance reflects a decontextualized framing th at ignores the fact that teachers interact with different students for different time periods as well as the fact that test scores may have little to do with what students actually learned from their teachers. Having parents, business people, and politic ians formulate content-based standards only further marginalizes teachers in their role as pre sumed experts in formulating their own curriculum. It implies a basic distrust of teachers, perceive d as deviating from societal expectations for those literacy practices considered essential for participation in the global market. In their analysis of California standards, Sleeter and Stillman (2005), drawing on Bernsteins notion of framing (above, p. 11), found that the reading and language arts standards were more strongly framed than history and social science, and the stronger framing wa s accomplished by administration of annual statewide tests and a quite narrow range of choices among state-adopted language arts texts. This framing of standards according to neoliberal discourses has also moved teachers conceptions of the nature of teaching a particular discipline in the direction of achieving a large number of atomistic standards, resulting in f ragmented, atomistic teaching through using some form of rote learning exercises that mimic the hi gh stakes tests their students have to take, instruction that fragments aspects of discipline k nowledge and processes (Petrosky, 2006, p. 89). A comparison of New Zealand English teacher s who started teaching between 19611970 and teachers who started teaching in 19951999 foun d that the former were provided with general objectives issued by the New Zealand government in 19 83 such as be involved in activities such as role-playing, interpreting visual images and sound pi ctures to help [students] understand that there are many signs, sounds, and symbols used in commun ication (Locke, 2006, p. 213). As a result, the first group of teachers had enjoyed considerable autonomy in their teaching based on relatively progressive disciplinary theories. In contrast, the second group of teachers was expected to teach according to another set of standards issued by the government in 1994 that sp ecified outcomes within each of five strands: Listening Reading Writing Viewing and Presenting (p. 213). For each outcome, students were expected to be evaluated according to eight levels that were often difficult to distinguish. For example, for close reading, students were evaluated as reaching level 6: discuss and analyze language, meanings, ideas, and lite rary qualities in a range of co ntemporary and historical texts, taking account of purpose, audience, and other texts as opposed to level 7: analyze critically language, meanings, and ideas in a wide range of contemporary and historical texts, taking account of purpose, audience, and other texts While teachers in the first group were more likely to object to framing instruction in terms of these objectives as inconsistent with their broader conception of instruction and evaluation, teachers in the second group were less likely to object, having been trained to employ them in their preservice programs. At the same time, it is important to note that teachers respond to this positioning in different ways. Based on his research with elementary teac hers, Kris Sloan (2006) rejects the notion that accountability necessarily positions teachers in nega tive ways, particularly given the low quality of teacher instruction in large urban districts. His anal ysis reveals some teachers who translated these policies to suit their own local needs. One thirdgrade elementary language arts teacher, who was highly critical of the focus on testing as limiting her instruction, was not adversely influenced by testing mandates: having to provide district admini strators with writing samples from her students meant employing more writing in the classroom, resul ting in improvements in her students writing. Another first-grade teacher who objected to some of the district mandates as inconsistent with her curriculum was granted flexibility to employ her curriculum. Another teacher who was highly critical of testing was not sufficiently attending to his less-able students. Sloan argues for the need to focus on local, qualitative analyses of how accountability mandates position teachers in often complex,
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 12 contradictory ways given the fact that individual actors interpret and then respond to information based on their own personal histories, past expe riences, and frames of reference (p. 146). Profiting from neoliberal economies of scale. Analyses of the effect of commercial testing on teaching and learning provoke interest in another as pect of the neoliberal agenda: the relationships between the corporate publishing/ testing industry and the formulation of standards in state-wide textbook adoption states such as California and Texa s that serve to foster mandated selection of certain textbook series. In his analysis of the adoption of reading curriculum in Texas, Steven Metcalf (2002) noted that given a close relations hip between the McGraw family and George Bush as governor, McGraw Hill textbook authors assum ed considerable control over formulating curriculum policy focusing on phonics instruction consistent with their reading textbook series, as well as tests developed by the McGraw Hill testing companies. This use of mandated textbook and teacher-pr oof curriculum materials serves to position teachers as having little autonomy in formulating their curriculum, particularly when, as is the case with the phonics approach, state tests are linked to the phonics curriculum. At the same time, it is assumed that their low test scores are related to the quality of their instruction. An analysis of teachers perceptions showed that newspaper report s of their students test scores that could be directly linked to them generated high levels of st ress: Many chairs wrote that pressure from their communities and administrators added to the stress level of teachers. One chair noted that many [teachers] mention increased stress levels caused by negative media coverage, despite our students excellent scores. Being held accountable for forces beyond their direct control also reduces the job [of teaching] (Duke, Butin & Sofka, 2003, p. 139). The other face of neoliberalism. There is another side to neoliberalism, more akin to traditional liberalism in its view of education as a progressive force. This is well represented by the views of Robert Reich, formerly President Clinto ns Secretary of Labor. He divides American jobs into three categories: routine production work, in -person services, and symbolic-analytic services (Reich, 1991). Routine production work and in-pers on services tend to be low-skilled, routine, and paid by the hour. Symbolic analysis, on the other hand, creates wealth in the global information economy. Including financial consultants, engin eers, software developers, architects, energy consultants, television producers, and university professors, these workers solve, identify and broker problems by manipulating sym bols. They simplify reality into abstract images that can be rearranged, juggled, experimented with, communicated to other specia lists, and then, eventually, transformed back into reality. The manipulations are done with analytic tools, sharpened by experience (p. 178). Currently, education for such thinking is being prov ided mainly for children of elites, who go to schools where abstraction, system s thinking, experimentation and collaboration are at the center of curriculum. Memorization of facts is less important to students who know ho w to access information instantaneously. In co ntrast to this training of s keptical, curious, and creative minds (p. 230), the majori ty of students in th e U.S. are spoon-fed pr epackaged subject matter, whose order and significance are already defined for them; there is little discovery and little opportunity to get behind the datato ask why certain facts have been selected, why they are assumed to be important, how they were de duced, and how they might be contradicted (p. 230). Reich sees the lack of access to such educati on by the majority of children as both an issue of social justice and endangering the growth of our economy. Others also assert that all workers need the capacity to think flexibly, creatively, and from a systems orientation. Gee, Hull, and Lankshear, in The New Work Order (1996), describe the movement of workplaces in general towards more flattened hierarchies, and the ten dency to place more responsibility for decision-
Fissures in Standards Formulation 13 making on what were once line workers doing a single repetitive task. Although claims that those days are over are premature, companies have sh ed middle managers and expect workers to exhibit more flexibility in work assignments. Along with this comes a greater need for workers, many of whom used to have little use for literacy, to read training manuals, learn to operate new technologies, keep track of inventory of supplies and products, and come up with innovations to react flexibly to changes in local conditions without orders from above. These new workers need to function in new roles in distributed systems, where how to learn and adapt is more important than any previous knowledge they carry in from prior experience or schooling. This focus on group decision-making in the workplace is then addressed in school throug h cooperative learning and reciprocal teaching methods in communities of practice, although these communities do not engage in critical reflection about goals or identities (Gee, Hull, & Lankshear, 1996, p. 65). While this face of neoliberalism surfaces in some standards discussions which posit the need for performance assessment (NCTE, 1996; New Standa rds, 1997), it is at odds with the call for standardization and accountability that is cheaper and easier to implement on a statewide basis. Where accountability measures are stringent, or su pport is lacking, teachers are caught in a double bind if they attempt to implement constructivist standards or performance assessments. If they make the attempt without support, training, and po litical backing, they will experience difficulties. Teachers are often not well prepared to use nontraditional assessments (Bateson, 1994; Black & William, 1998; Firestone, Roseblum, & Bader, 1992; Plake & Impara, 1997). Missouri teachers experienced considerable difficulty implementing performance assessments, mostly due to lack of training (Jackson, 2000). An analysis of high school teachers in three suburban Illinois schools indicated that only a small number of these tea chers were actually using authentic assessments (Meisenheimer, 1996). Those teachers who employ ed performance assessments successfully were more likely to be receiving in-service training, wer e actively involved in professional organizations and in their schools, and had a strong philosophical understanding of the purpose and value of authentic assessment. When teachers lacking such su pport fail, critics then charge that it is the constructivist standards them selves that are problematic as opposed to the lack of support, training, and political backing in an era of budget cutting (Avery, Beach, & Coler, 2003). This then provides conservative forces with the rationale to justify the use of more traditional, content-based testing and standards. When teachers are comfortable with nontraditional assessments, studies find that the format requires an enormous amount of teacher time in addition to the costs of scoring (Koretz, Stecher, Klein, & McCaffrey, 1994). Some states, includ ing Arizona, California, Kentucky, and Maryland, have pulled back from the idea of using high stakes, performance-based assessments because of concerns about time, cost, and questionable psych ometric properties. A few studies report teachers perceive positive changes in their instruction when they use performance assessments, but the same teachers question whether the costs make the ch ange worthwhile (Herman, 1997; Koretz et al., 1994; Madaus & Kellaghan, 1993). All of this adds up to a major schism in the standards-development movement between a more traditional content-based approach driven by multiple-choice testing and a constructivist, performance-based approach driven by alternative assessments, mentioned above. The majority of states, fueled by the implementation of the test-driven No Child Left Behind legislative mandates, have opted for or moved back to the former approach, reflecting the larger political and cultural agendas underlying the standards movement. This gives the advantage to those committed to a neoconservative agenda, which favors the content-based approach. However, it also leads teachers and districts back towards instructional practices that favor coverage over understanding. For example, when Virginia 6th and 7th grade students in several different science classes were asked one week later to write short essay an swers as to why they selected certain options on a multiple-choice
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 14 Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) test as a mea sure of their ability to explain their answers, 71 percent of the students who passed the multiple choice test failed the written test (Berube, 2004). Moreover, high-stakes testing has had adverse e ffects on low-income and ethnic minority students who are penalized by low test scores, resulting in increased in drop-out rates (Myers & Curtiss, 2003; Orfield & Lee, 2005). Neoliberal Discourses Evident in English Language Arts Standards The need for a focus on preparing students to operate in de-contextualized workplace worlds is evident in those standards formulated in terms of a skill-based, instrumental emphasis on acquiring basic literacy, reading, and writing practices with the more constructivist, flexible types of learning showing up rarely in state standards. Thus, for example, one of the Wisconsin reading standards in an early draft that showed strong neolib eral influences stated that students are to read a variety of materials that will afford them opportuni ties to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace. A centr al aspect of workplace litera cy has to do with acquiring information. Within the literature section of th at version of the Wisconsin standards, some ten standards were devoted to acquiring information, as in Understand and use technical reports, technical manuals, historical papers, and government documents (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1997b, p. 27). Similarly, the following current Minnesota stan dard I. C. 3: Analyze and draw accurate conclusions about information contained in wa rranties, contracts, job descriptions, technical descriptions and other informational sources, sele cted from labels, warnings, manuals, directions, applications and forms in order to complete specif ic tasks focuses on practices associated with workplace contexts. This focus on workplace skills was even stronger in the earlier Profile standards, and created a problem for neoconservative school critics who decried what they perceived as the anti-intellectual or lack of academic content in school curriculum related to teaching core subject matter knowledge. Measurable standards Given the need to develop standardized test measures, standards are then developed as measurable, i.e., as specifyin g content or skills that can be evaluated using commercially-developed, easily-scored tests. As a re sult, English language arts standards are framed in terms of knowledge of specific items that can be used to develop multiple-choice or short-answer test items. For example, the current 2003 Minneso ta English language arts high school standards include the following standards related to grammar: II. C. 3. Edit writing for correct grammar, capitalizati on, punctuation, spelling, verb tense, sentence structure, and paragraphing to enhance clarity and readability: a. Correctly use reflexive case pr onouns and nominativ e and objective case pronouns, including who and whom b. Correctly use punctu ation such as the comma, semicolon, colon, hyphen, and dash By specifying this content, multiple-choice test items can then be crea ted in which students identify grammatical errors in sentences. The kinds of learning and instruction fostered by a focus on such testing limits students acquiring insightful understanding of knowle dge. A survey study of 130 high school English department chairs (Duke, Butin & Sofka, 2003) in dicated that the Virginia SOL testing program in English resulted in an increased focus on traditi onal versus performance assessment. While many of the department chairs in the survey agreed with th e standards in theory, they often characterized the
Fissures in Standards Formulation 15 tests as unfair because teachers had little control over the testing process. George Hillockss (2002) multi-state study of the effects of writing assessment on instruction shows that the deleterious effects of standardized testing are not restricted to the content areas covered by multiple-choice tests. Analysis of the impact of testing on inst ruction in Jackson, Mississippi, and Austin, Texas found that given a focus on preparing for reading te sts, there was less time for reading longer works of literature (Zabala & Minnici, 2007). An extensive analysis of the impact of the Chicago Public Schools literature standards, formulated according to content-based, district-mandated tests, found that the standards themselves shaped four urban Chicago English teachers instruction and classroom discussions of To Kill a Mockingbird (Anagnostopoulos, 2005). These standards privileged text-centered analysis of formal characteristics of texts, as reflected in the following standard: The student will read literature and be able to evaluate the relationships between a plot and its sub-plots, connecting themes, character traits, motives, tone, point of view, and settin g (Chicago Public School System, 1997, quoted in Anagnostopoulos, 2005, p. 46). The curriculum directi ves and sample lessons related to this standard emphasized the need to correctly identify literar y elements consistent with an authoritative interpretation based on perceived authorial inten t, a reflection of monologic instruction that students must correctly mimic that authoritative re ading in their writing or on tests (Nystrand, Gamoran, Kachur, & Prendergast, 1997). The criter ia for passing a written test with a score of two lacked critical rigor: the student demonstrates an accurate but limited understanding of the text and uses information from the text to make simplis tic interpretations of th e text (Nystrand et al., 1997, p. 48), criteria emphasiz ing accuracy and use of textual evidence consistent with a textcentered teaching approach. These standards and implied practices influenced how the four teachers studied taught the novel in each of two classes, particularly the teachers whose schools were under scrutiny for low test scores. 61% of the teachers written assignme nts involved multiple-choice and short-answer question worksheets; 75% of the questions consisted of restating information from the text. Only 14% of the writing assignments involved extende d writing tasks (Anagnostopolous, 2005, p. 51). The teachers also made consistent references to th e need to prepare for the district tests through noting the value of, in some cases, memorizing in formation about the novel or referring to sample questions in preparation for the test. And, in instances in which students framed their own alternative interpretations a ssociated with issues of racism in the novel that challenged the teachers monologic, authoritative interpretations, the teacher s silenced those interpretations by referencing the need to prepare for the test. This study de monstrates how content-focused, test-oriented standards and tests served to reify traditional, monologic forms of teaching that perpetuated deference to authoritative readings, low expectation s for higher-order thinking, and marginalization of students who challenged this approach. Rather than enhancing the level of students learning, the standards and tests in this study only served to limit that learning. Neoconservative Discourses and Standards Justification Neoconservative Discourses of Society Neoconservative discourses frame society as challenged by diverse demographic shifts, a perceived decline in morality and discipline, an d the complexity of technological change and globalization, resulting in the need to reassert trad itional Western values. These shifts entail the need for standards as defined as norms for appropriate be havior consistent with traditional values, a need
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 16 that has a strong emotional appeal. Noel Wilson (199 8) argues that in a period of perceived decline in authoritative control, the appeal to standards has a strong emotional resonance with the need for reinstituting traditional notions of discipline and respect: People talk about raising standards when th ey perceive a slackness in the ropes of control, when they see a sl oppiness infiltrating the ve rities of life, when they begin to be fearful about lif es diminishing certainties. Talk of standards is talk about conservation, about protecting the past in its imagin ed superiority and security, and defending the future through strong leadership. Discipline, Respect, Standards, Leadership are almost interchangeable words in a discourse that lauds the good old days an d decries the soft underbellied freedom and license of the pres ent. (Chapter 6) He also notes a related mythic appeal to asserting the cont rol of a particular dominant group over what are perceived to be counter-culture challenges to the aut hority of that group: the Fatherland, the Mo therland, Our Land, Our Nation, Our Church, Our Family, Our Team, Our God, whatever its particular form. Words that recall our common heritage and our common destiny, and the myths and ideologies that surround that communality; we lose our in dividual and insignif icant identity in the power and communion of th e group, and are seduced in to forgetting our fear even as we lose our freedom. (Chapter 6) For Wilson, given a hierarchical value structur e in which the dominant groups values are perceived to be superi or, a standard mediate s between ideology and structure, between the moral values, and the relational power systems that they support (Chapter 6). During the 1980s and 1990s, conservatives voi ced concerns about what they perceived to be the decline in moral values associated with i ssues of abortion, gay marriage, and portrayals of alternative life styles in popular culture and the media (Frank, 2004). This decline was linked to a moral relativism constituting the need for a more de finitive set of authoritative values and authority figures. In his analysis of the political rhetoric a ssociated with this political appeal, George Lakoff (1995, 2002) identified a conservative strict father cultural model as representing the need for the imposition of authority to counteract the permissive, relativistic moral and political culture in which people become dependent on government and thus la ck individual initiative. He contrasts this strict father cultural model with the nurturant parent model associated with liberal political policies in which government serves to provide support progra ms for people, particularly people of color or poor people as well as immigrants, who by defini tion of receiving this support are perceived by conservatives to lack self-initiative. This perceived decline in moral values associated with the permissiveness of the nurturant parent liberal cultural model implies the need for a strict father adherence to some set of standards that asserts the values of the dominant, white mi ddle-class. As the increased diversity of many communities was read as a challenge to these values there was an increased call for standards in the schools as reasserting them. Positioning students of color. This need for standards as reflecting larger values reflects for Whites the need to control what is perceived to be a problemfailing poor students of color (Trainor, 2002): Proponents of content-based standards resort to subtle use of di scourses of race and class to argue for acc ountability to traditional content-standa rds. Framing the need for standards as a means of coping with an increasing number of poor students of color through a discourse of race and class appeals to a white, middle-class publics sense of the need to control and socialize students perceived as different or ot her than themse lves. (p. 637)
Fissures in Standards Formulation 17 Neoconservative discourses consistently place bl ame on the poor performa nce of students of color on urban schools and teache rs for the achievement gapa gap measured by test scores. In a letter to state ed ucation officials, Rod Pa ige (2002), then United States Secretary of Education, chided offici als for attempting to lower the cut scores on mandated tests given the high number of students failing them: It is nothing less than sham eful that some defenders of the status quo are trying to hide the performance of underachieving schools in order to shield parents from reality. Not only is th is political tactic an emba rrassment, it undermines the publics trust in education as a cornerstone of fr eedom . ( 15) In order to ensure authentic school reform, our nation must raise the bar of expectations. Every child can learn. Every child must learn. And thanks to this bipartisan law, every child will learn. ( 17) The assumption is that urban sc hools and teachers ar e failing these st udents and that, according to Paiges letter, educators w ho alter cut scores themselves are the enemies of equal opportunity, assuming that schools themselves in which every child will learn will lead to equal opportunity for those children. The neoconservative discourse of blame of sc hools for low achievement does not take into account the influence of childhood poverty that correla tes highly with low test scores as well as the high degree of school segregation according to race and class (Berliner, 2005). Berliner argues that this discourse also does not account for the influence of neighborhood facts related to unemployment, family support, housing, health, and overcrowding, which correlates with school achievement (Brooks-Gunn, Duncan Klebanov, & Sealand, 1993; Catsambis and Beveridge, 2001; Garner & Raudenbush, 1991). This leads Berlin er (2005) to recommend an approach that emphasizes inequalities outside schooling: When we push for more rigorous standard s in our schools we should also push for a raise in the minimum wage, or better yet, for livable wages. If we do not do this then we will ensure th at the vast majority of th ose meeting the increasingly rigorous requirements for hi gh school graduation will be those students fortunate enough to be born into the right families. If we really want a more egalitarian set of educational outcomes requires, our na tion needs a more equalitarian wage structure. (p. 987) The neoconservative agenda on testing as a means of addres sing failing urban schools has resulted in increased amount of direct instructio n and testing in these sc hools and a reduction of more constructivist instruction. Research of the effects of standa rds and standardized assessments in New Jers ey and Virginia (Duke, Butin, & Sofka, 2003; Firestone, Camilli, Yurecko, Monfils, & Mayrowetz, 2000) indicate that students in poorer districts are more likely to experience the impact of a content-based, testing approach, while students in wealthier districts, even though their schools may have adopted a state-mandated content-based set of standards, are more likely to engage in constructi vist forms of teaching and learning consistent with their potential experiences in higher education. Conflicts within the neoconservative group. Bernstein (2000) complicates the picture of neoconservatives as mainly focused on conserving tr aditional values and reveals the tensions within the neoconservative group by marking the differe nce between what he calls retrospective and prospective pedagogic identities, which determine the career of the student. Retrospective identities hark back to the grand national, relig ious, cultural narratives of the past appropriately recontextualised to stabilize that past in the future (p. 66). The focus is on preservation and continuation of heritage and tradition, and not on the students future in teraction with the economy; it is usually asserted that a liberal studies educ ation is the best preparation for any future. For
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 18 example, Katherine Kersten (1999b) contrasts what sh e perceives to be the decline in reading skills as due to the dumbing down of basal readers to boost minority students self-esteem by lowering academic standards, they simplified vocabulary, an d chose selections with shorter sentences and paragraphs (p. 15A). She also argues that basa l authors are chosen for their value in shaping childrens attitudes about race, sex, class and disab ility. Classic stories that have delighted childrens imaginations for years were increasingly sacrifi ced for ethnic cheerleading selections (p. 15A). She contrasts this reading with reading of more traditional literary texts, noting that at one private elementary school, students are reading anthologies of folklore, myths, proverbs, poems and biographies from around the World as well as stories about Benjamin Franklin, fables by Aesop, and subtle, imagination-stirring poems by Emily Dickinson, texts that expand childrens intellectual horizons (p. 15A). Prospective identities, in contrast, while referring to the same narratives, do so more selectively, because this identity is constructed to deal with cultural, economic, and technological change (p. 67; emphasis in the original). Bernstein uses the example of educational reform under Thatcherism as an example, where conservative values relating to nation, family, individual responsibility and enterprise were fused in such a way as to motivate appropriate attitudes, dispositions, and performances relevant to a mark et culture and reduced state welfare (p. 68). These different identities and their conflicts can be id entified in the American context, as well. The existence of the neoconservative prosp ective identity may help explain what Apple (2004a) identifies as a collusion between neoconservatives and neoliberals in pushing the state to assume a more active role in promoting the idea of the competitive, entrepreneurial citizen and consumer. The combination of neoliberal visions of more effective workers and neoconservative pressures to regulate curricular content and student behavior has resulted in what Apple calls the increasing power of the evaluative state (p 23). However, the motivation for increased accountability, while shared by neoliberals and neoconservatives, comes from different places. Similarly to Bernsteins description of pedagogic identities, Apple describes the conservative construction of an imagined past that is used to castigate the present, and that necessitates tighter control over the curriculum, restoration of our lost traditions, and making education more disciplined and competitive. Few, if any, of thes e comparisons are based on research findings. For conservatives more than for neoliberals, the ma rket works as a metaphor, natural, neutral, and governed by effort and merit (p. 18). The market works by the rational choice of individual actors, thus working as a metaphorical meeting place for neoliberals and neoconservatives in discussions of politics and education. In contrast, one tension between neoliberal and neoconservative discourses of schooling stems from a neoconservative backlash against the complexities associated with fast-capitalist notions of constructing shifting, flexible identities and problem-solving skills suitable for work in a range of alternative careers and contexts. This backlash is evident in the rise of religious fundamentalism and the need for certain immutable truths, truths they would like to impose and others and on the world as a whole (Gee, 2006, p. 167). Neoconservative Discourses of School Standards Given their conception of society facing the ch allenges of increasing diversity and in opposition to neoliberal scenarios of rapid growth and change, neoconservative discourses of school standards emphasize the need to maintain or return to a traditional, content-focused curriculum. In terms of English language arts standards, these neoconservative agendas often focus on the value of teaching a literary canon that is perceived to fos ter a Eurocentric, white, middle-class perspective
Fissures in Standards Formulation 19 (Kouritzin, 2004). This content focus can therefor e be distinguished from the neoliberal focus on reading informative texts, or acquiring problem-s olving, technical skills through constructivist methods. As it describes on its website, the neoconservative Fordham Foundation promotes the need to articulate a solid core curriculum taught by knowledgeable, expert instructors. It is also committed to the use of testing as a tool for a ccountability and the need for competition: The Foundation also welcomes the reinvention of K-12 education to include such alternatives as charter schools, contract-management, student scholarship s and other strategies for stimulating more education choices, greater competition and real co nsumer empowerment, thus taking on a strongly prospective pedagogic identity (Bernstein, 2000). The Foundation also critiques the limitations of constructivist standards as a substitute for acquiring content, assumed to be a prerequisite for engaging in any constructivist projects. As Chester Finn (2005) notes: Few skills are useful withou t any knowledge. A child do ing library research will soon become frustrated when her lack of background information constrains her from understanding what she is reading. Knowledge is to skills as bricks are to mortar: you need both to bu ild a strong wall. (p. 16) This bricks-and-mortar metaph or presupposes that one must first have information or knowledge in order to construct understanding or to employ literacy sk ills. This metaphor frames knowledge as sets of facts or informatio n as building blocks used to formulate ideas and understanding consistent with E.D. Hirschs (1988) notion of cultural literacy.1 Given the importance of these building blocks to learning, it is not surprising that conservatives generally call for standards to spell out as precisely as possible what content is to be learned, generally in a subject-by-subject, gradeby-grade, manner. This is exemplified in Sarah Stotskys evaluation of state English standards for the Fordham Foundation (2005). States get higher rankings for spelling out bodies of knowledge, identifying exemplary works of literature, and arranging these grade by grade. In conjunction with Bernsteins observation that conservatives tend to prefer stronger framing of subject matter, she also prefers the language arts to be clearly divided into the subgroups of literature, reading, co mposition, vocabulary, speaking, and listening, categories reflecting coherent bodies of scholarship or research in reading and the English language arts (p. 84). Embedded in this and in other st atements is an assumption of general scholarly agreement regarding not only pedagogy, but the orga nization of the discipline as a whole, which is just astounding to anyone familiar with En glish studies of the last thirty years. A similar assumption of unity is found in Chester Finns introduction to Stotskys study, where he comments on their shared commitment to qua lity, traditional literature as the heart of the English curriculum and their equally shared fears regarding its present neglect: Uncorrected, it portends a generation of Americans who may know how to read but, by the end of high sc hool, cannot be assumed to have read much thats worthwhile, let alone acquired a suitabl e grounding in the great works of our shared culture. (2005, p. 6) The assumption here is that his readers will share his concept of what is su itable and great, what constitutes grounding in literature, as well as th at we all share the same culture. As mentioned above, while the discourse of c onsensus underlies the very project of standards form ation, it is particularly strong in ne oconservative documents. 1 This emphasis on facts in opposition to constr uctivist instruction was evident in the Florida Legislature passing a law that stated that "American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed" and "shall be viewed as know able, teachable and testab le (Norton, 2006, p. 11).
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 20 Promoting a common culture. The other conservative critique of constructivist standards as failing to value the need for knowledge is th at they reflect a relativist theory of truth: There is no actual truth or definite knowledge, relativists believe, only various culturally determined scripts or versions of the truth. It would be oppressive, they argue, for a state to identify specifi c knowledge that must be learned by all. Any such knowledge would be nothing mo re than the script preferred by the dominant class. (Finn, p. 16) They argue that students need a working know ledge of the nations heritage, history, and cultural and intellectual institutions to participat e as citizens in a democracy. This focus on the need to impart such knowledge as a set of truths mask s the contested nature of knowledge, for example, about American hist ory or its institutions. In an interview with George Clowes (2005) of The Heartland Institute, former Commissioner of Education of Minnesota, Cheri Piers on Yecke, and, as of 2007, Chancellor, K-12 Florida Public Schools, lamented the fact that A merican values were no longer being taught in schools: When you look at the destiny of our country, its a very serious concern. So many individuals have been raised on moral relativism--where you cant say that some values or cultures are better than others--t hat there is a fear of teaching American values in the public schools. And yet, with all of the immigrants we have in our nation, what better place th an the public schools for th ese students to learn what it means to be an American, the common themes that unite us as Americans, and the common history that we share. ( 27) In her critique, Yecke sets up a comparison b etween her perception of moral relativismin which it is assumed that all va lues or cultures are equivale ntand her notion of American values as presumably superior to other values. Having evoked a neoconservative agenda to re store a particular vision of American values into school, Yecke also evokes a neoliberal stra tegy of school choice and charter schools to force public schools to be more responsive to parent s who want more focus on American values: Parents expect schools to tea ch American values, and if its not happening in schools, where is it going to happen? There is a lot of frustration among members of the public because they feel this is what the schools need to be doing, and theyre falling down on it. I do believe you wi ll find a strong movement for charter schools and school choi ce whenever a school district is not responsive to what parents want. When a district is nonresponsive to parents, then parents should have the option to go elsewhere. That is the essence of school choice--giving parents the right to match their child s needs to an appropriate school. ( 28) Neoconservative Discourses Evident in English language arts Standards In their analysis of the Fordham Foundation and Achieves analysis of English language arts standards in different states, Valencia and Wi xson (2001) examine these groups ideological orientation as reflected in the criteria they used in ev aluating state standards. These criteria have to do with use of English in classrooms, as oppos ed to second language use; a focus on teaching knowledge about traditional American literature fr om the canon and related literary movements, as opposed to using multicultural literature, young adul t literature, or connecting literature to social issues; the use of measurable standards that exclude a focus on teaching alternative strategies or
Fissures in Standards Formulation 21 relating students values to texts; an avoidance of connecting students own lives to literature; and not prescribing certain types of teaching methods. Sandra Stotsky of the Fordham Foundation is highly critical of the NCTE/IRA English language arts standards as allegedly anti-intellectual given their lack of focus on what she acknowledges as con tent (2000). She is also critical of state standards that require students to relate the literature they re ad to their lives, or to interpret what they read from within the framework of their personal expe riences as anti-literary and anti-intellectual. In conducting her review, Stotsky (2000) form ulated a set of negative criteria which she describes as anti-literary or anti -academic requirements contained in standards. These included the following: 1. The document implies th at the literary or popular culture of our or any other country is m onolithic in nature. 2. The reading/literature standards requi re students to re late what they read to their lived experiences. 3. The reading/literature standards want reading materials to address contemporary social issues. (p. 23) The implication of the first is th at students cannot gain a true understanding of another culture merely from reading one or a fe w literary works from that cultur e. This is rather interesting, considering her faith in canonical American lite rature for passing on the dominant culture, values, and sense of history. The second ties in with the neoconservative di slike of relativist values and constructivist learning. Having students relate their reading of literature to their own experiences undermines the very capacity of a literary work to help readers transcend their limited experiences. A major function of literat ure is to expand perspectives and free students from insularity. Th us, we should want to know what new insights into human relationships or into the deployment of literary skills students have. (Finn, p. 17) From this perspective, encouraging students to connect texts to their own experiences reifies their limited, solipsistic, insular perspectives as contrasted with the universal, timeless truths portrayed in literature. This notio n of students acquiring such ti meless truths from literature fails to consider the ways in which any reader draws on his experiences in constructing text meaning. The third is intended to protect the English curriculum from be ing merely an adjunct to the social studies curriculum. Literary works ar e not good sources for the real background on an issue. Again, considering her commitment to teaching th e foundational Revolutionary documents in the English classroo m, this seems contradictory. While Stotsky would deny that she is discouragi ng the reading of works by diverse authors, she would maintain that such works should not be sought out on that basis, but only as they reveal the universal truths associated with the more traditional works of the White, Western, JudeoChristian canon. Underlying this fear of addressi ng contemporary social issues or teaching moral or social dogma (Stotsky, 2000) is a belief in th e breakdown of a core of traditional moral values due to an influx of different, alternative values associated with diverse populations, leading to the need to valorize the canon of European/America n literary texts that reflect definitive Western values (Tremmel, 2000). Such a concern frames literature as providing universal truths that transcend immediate social and political issues, a concern that reflects an uneasiness about having students address the limitations of the social and political status quo. In her analysis of the 2001 California social st udies standards, Christine Sleeter (2004) finds a consistent pattern of us/them dualisms evident in the bifurcation of Western versus non-Western, Judeo-Christian versus other religions, and democr atic political systems/free market economies versus totalitarian systems (p. 27). A more recent analysis by Sleeter and Stillman (2005) found that
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 22 Californias 2001 social studies and 1997/1999 langua ge arts standards, despite the highly diverse populations in Californias schools, reflected a shift towards more content-oriented and bounded standards, reflecting Bernsteins collection code with few references to students own experiences and interests. Literacy is framed in terms of mastering skills in a hierarchical order in which ELL students who are still learning English are relega ted to a back to basics program. They note a connection to a discourse of Whiteness serving to privilege certain groups over others: The reading/language arts documents cons istently refer to Californias nonwhite, non-English speaking students as these students and they instead of one of us. History-social science is struct ured largely as a story of European immigration and the construction of a na tion around Judeo-Christian values and European political institutions Implicitly, in an attempt to reduce the significance of the growing demographic diversity of California students, the content standards set up a we/they perspective in which we are of European, JudeoChristian heritage and English-speaking, and they are not. Ideologically, the curriculum in both disciplines rests most comfortably on historically dominant groups perspectives, language, and ways of seeing the world. (p. 43) These dualistic discours es were reflected in a critique by the conservative Minnesota organization, EdWatch, of an ea rly draft of the revised Minnes ota literature standards (Effrem, 2003). In their critique, they noted that the use of certain literature (fairy tales, myths, and legends) serves to promote values contrary to White, Western, Judeo-Christian values. In noting the absence of standards related to American literature in grades 35, they imply that canonical American, British, and world literature promot es values they do subscribe to, especially American literature. The literature they promote por trays a particular set of values or norms that they hope students will acquire: standards as refl ecting the need for soci alization of students. The combination of this reliance on canonical literature to teach dominant values and a focus on teaching factual content knowledge reflects a discourse of absolutist knowledge and values as a means of bolstering respect for traditional authority and certainty in opposition to an inquirybased, critical pedagogy approach that cha llenges authority and interrogates certainty. The increasingly diverse student population, particularly poor students of color, are perceived to lack standardscultural capital or social practices associated with White, middle-class markers of success. This leads to a highly appealing rhetoric of the need to leave no child behindto no longer permit poor students of color to fail or fa ll between the cracks. The result of this appeal has been that more direct instruction geared for tests has become the norm in poorer schools, while students in wealthier schools continue to be en gaged in more intellectually challenging instruction (Duke, Butin & Sofka, 2003). Ironically, the c ontent-based standards move ment may only further perpetuate social hierarchies in which the poorer st udents receive multiple-choice tests and the more privileged students receive AP courses. Local control versus accountability. The neoconservative push towards state standards has been achieved at the cost of some traditional cons ervative ideals. One of these is local control, or the idea that local school districts, schools, and tea chers should make all major curricular decisions. In his depiction of the strict father metaphor of family and government, George Lakoff (1995) points out that the father who rightly controls his childrens movements, time, and thought processes when they are minors leaves them stri ctly alone as adults. The reward for being an obedient son in ones youth is the unfettered right to rule as father in ones turn. Similarly, while the strict father executive acts decisively and independently for the good of the state in those areas where he has authority, it is not the role of govern ment to intervene in the decisions of local families and communities where their children are concerned. Local control has also traditionally been a value in the Upper Midwest among both conservative s and progressives. In their discourse analysis
Fissures in Standards Formulation 23 of the development of character education in U pper Midwest states, Peter Smagorinsky and Joel Taxel (2005) explain how the conception of the strong, self-reliant community grew out of the particular history and blend of cultures involved in European settlement of this area in the 19th century. Consistent with neoliberal notions of en gaging different constituencies in achieving consensus, we also found evidence in each state that respect for local control was necessary to writing acceptable state standards. The neoliberal and neoconservative forces in each state that promoted statewide standards and assessments had first of all to gain acceptance for the idea that local districts needed to be accountable to the state at all. Meshing Neoliberal and Neoconservative Di scourses: Creating Ambiguous Standards In summary, while both neoliberal and neoconservative forces promote the need for standards, they frame competing conceptions of how to define standards based on their conceptions of society, conceptions of schooling, desired stan dards formulation, and assessment techniques, as illustrated in Table 1. When these competing for ces attempt to achieve some compromise, they generate problematic standards that undermine substantive, challenging English language arts instruction. As we will illustrate with examples from Wiscons in and Minnesota, attempting to reconcile these competing discourses generated incoherent problematic standards that mask incoherent notions of teaching English language arts. For ex ample, the combination of a neoliberal focus on performance-based assessment of communication skills with a neoconservative focus on teaching traditional canonical literature c ontent assessable by multiple-choi ce tests represents two very different disciplinary conceptions of the English language arts curriculum. Nods made to reading and writing skills necessary to succeed in a global economy are contradicted by an emphasis on safe New Critical literary analyses that av oid linking literary reading to the world schools supposedly are preparing students to meet. Both st ates in our study also apparently ignored recent research on adolescent literacy practices and the impor tance of engaging student readers and writers. Methods The documents analyzed for this study fall in to two categories: drafts of the standards themselves, and public documents relating to the development and release of the standards, particularly those justifying particular approaches to voters. From Wisconsin, these consist of the state Model Academic Standards and three different dr afts leading up to their final publication, as well as front matter in the form of letters to the citizens of the state from the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Benson, and then-governor Tommy Thompson. From Minnesota, we draw on excerpts from the Profile of Learning st andards and the final version of the content-based Minnesota Academic Standards that were develope d to replace the more constructivist Profile. Comments on both standards versions and justificati ons for the change are taken from reports from neoliberal and neoconservative think-tanks referring specifically to Minnesota standards; the website of a conservative parents group, the Maple River Coalition, and newspaper articles published during standards development, particularly interviews with Commissioner of Education Cheryl Yecke. Methods of analysis included thematic and cultural models analysis of the standards themselves, and critical discourse analysis of the public statements.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 24 Table 1 Tensions between neoliberal and neoconservative fram es for formulating English language arts standards Domain Neoliberal frame Neoconservative frame Tensions Society Global market economy requiring flexibility/problem -solving skills Decline in moral st andards requiring strict father assertion of traditional values Technicist/economic framing focusing on shifting contexts versus values/moral framing based on eternal past. Purpose for schooling Requires learning reading and communication skills operant in the workplace. Return to content focus associated with grammar/phonics and British/American literature versus multicultural literature Schooling for shifting workplace contexts/situations versus schooling to inculcate traditional values Standards formulation Frame standards in terms of measurable skills or literacy practices; attempt to involve different local groups Frame standards by specifying specific subject-matter content allegedly valued by parents Performance-based standards versus content-based standards based on traditional English curriculum Assessment Performance-based assessment based on specific criteria Employ multiple-choice, objective tests of subject-matter content Evaluating performance versus evaluating knowledge content
Fissures in Standards Formulation 25 Cultural models analysis is a method borro wed from cognitive anthropology (Shore, 1996; Strauss & Quinn, 1997) to investigate the taken-forgranted theories or narratives about the world from the perspective of a particular discourse (G ee, 1996, 2004). The models identified in this analysis are a reflection of the value hierarchies of the various groups involved in formulating standards, containing exemplary beliefs and practices ranging from most to least valued in the ideological worlds discussed above. These models exist both in the external world, where they can be recognized as the perspectives of a group both by its members and outsiders, and internally as cognitive resources, called on by individuals in the co urse of negotiating daily life. Cultural models analysis investigates the assumptions underlying practices and ideologies through such tools as metaphor analysis (Lakoff, 1995; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980), prototype analysis (Harkness, Super & Keefer, 1992; Lakoff & Kovecses, 1987), as well as looking at both the standards and the talk about standards for counter-examples (Price, 1987) and ex amples of causal reasoning (Price, 1987; Quinn, 1987). The analysis of literature standards, in part icular, calls on previous work on cultural models of literature and literary study (Caughlan, 2003, 2004). Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) operates on a view of language as both reflecting and constituting power relations and ideological forces shaping institutional practices and identity construction (Chouliarki & Fairclough, 1999; Fa irclough, 1992, 2003; Gee, 1996, 1999; Rogers, 2004). CDA reveals the power dynamics of the politically-charged process of standards formulation by identifying the qualities of neoliberal and neocon servative discourses, their underlying ideologies and assumptions, and the positioning of participants in the process by each other. It also provides means of contrasting proponents claims regarding standards with the actual product of standards formulation. And, it illuminates how interest groups or individuals frame policy formulations in ways that establish them as common-sense approaches to schooling. In a CDA analysis of the competing discourses associated with the development of legislation mandating reading instruction in California, Woodside-Jiron (2004) found that testim ony by presumed experts such as G. Reid Lyon of the National Institute of Health as to the s cientific research justification for the value of traditional phonics-based/decoding models of reading instruction helped establish it as the accepted, common-sense approach to teaching reading. CDA relies on the application of an eclectic set of tools, including cultural models analysis and systemic-functional linguistics (SFL) to langua ge at the level of context, text, and sentence grammar (Fairclough, 1992; 1995; 2003). In addi tion to the methods mentioned above, we made use of the systemic-functional tool of theme/rheme analysis to uncover how policy-makers used sentence grammar to make new proposals seem accepted fact. English grammar positions new information in the latter part of a sentence (the rheme) and given, taken-for-granted information in the theme, or first part of a sentence (Fairc lough, 1992; Halliday, 1994). As Woodside-Jiron points out in her study of California reading policy implementation (2004), policy-makers will often introduce quite arguable items as new information in one statement, and then use it in the theme, or given, part of a clause in a subsequent sentence, making it appear as an uncontroversial aspect of policy background. This given/new, topic/focus sh ift serves to transform debatable contentions into seemingly established truths. In addition, actor/goal analysis (Martin, Matthiessen & Painter, 1997) was combined with pronoun analysis and interactional positioning anal ysis (Chouliarki & Fairclough, 1999) to explore how stakeholders in the process, particularly teach ers, were positioned by policy-makers. In the rest of this paper, we present analyses of the pro cess of standards formulation in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and finish with a discussion of the implications such standards have for the ways in which teachers and schools operate.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 26 Development of the Wisconsi n Model Academic Standards The development of Wisconsins Model Academic Standards between 1996 and 1998 reflected conflicts over the direction of the future of Wisconsin education that were similar to those unfolding in Minnesota. The Wisconsin Departme nt of Public Instruction (DPI), under the leadership of the elected Superintendent of Pub lic Instruction, John Benson, had begun a process of public, inclusive standards development in the mi d-1990s, which showed evidence of neoliberal influences. This process was both interrupted and disregarded by Tommy Thompson, the popular conservative governor of the state, in early 1997, when he presented the citizens of Wisconsin with a draft of model standards developed under the ausp ices of the conservative Hudson Institute, and which he proposed as the basis for Wisconsins acad emic standards. The final document, released in 1998, was a compromise melding of the DPI and Hudson Institute efforts, a compromise that reflects the tensions between neoliberal (Bens ons) and neoconservative (Thompsons) agendas. In this section of the paper, we look at two types of documents in relation to Wisconsin standards formation, drafts of the standards th emselves, and letters written by Thompson and Benson in 1996 and 1997 in which they introduced th eir drafts to the citizens and attempted to sell the idea of standards to the state. It is importa nt to recall that as recently as ten years ago the necessity for standards was not a foregone conclusion among voters, especially those in strong localcontrol states, who had to be convinced. As will be seen, both Benson and Thompson were committed to the idea of standards-based reform, and shared a model of how standards would work to reform education. Our analysis of these letters shows not only the commonalities in their approaches, but differences which reveal deep fi ssures between their concepts of what students should be learning in schools and how standards shou ld define what should be learned. In addition, the roles these two men chose to play vis--vis th e standards and the public varied widely, with Thompson showing a shrewd, political understanding of the publics desire for decisive action in addressing what was perceived as the need fo r enhanced public control of schooling. His assumption of a strict father role (Lakoff, 1995) effectively derailed the more deliberate, inclusive process Benson had been pursuing. The differences in rhetorical approaches are reflected in the developing standards. Thematic analyses of all drafts in the process show traces of the conflicts and compromises among traditional liberal and neoliberal forces, represented by Benson, and neoconservative forces, whose standard was borne by Thompson. An analysis of the high sc hool literature standards, in particular, reveals a document which, in giving everyone a littl e something, lacks coherence and direction. Presenting Standards as the Solution In initial letters presenting drafts of standa rds to Wisconsin citizens, Benson and Thompson presented an almost identical model of standards and how they would function in Wisconsin schools. Both men agreed that students needed to be functioning at a higher academic level in the future than they were at the time. Both stated repea tedly that if these higher expectations were stated clearly and precisely, so that students knew what was expected of them, students could and would put forward the extra effort needed to achieve at the higher academic level. Students would not do this on their own, of course: In the near future the fully developed standards will begin to shape teaching and learning in Wisconsins 2,000 school buildings (Benson, 1996a). I realize that a strong standards-driven reform will demand need ed changes in teaching an d assessment. I believe our teachers and their respective districts are ready to make the needed changes and I look forward
Fissures in Standards Formulation 27 to their involvement (Thompson, 1997a). Central to this implicit prototypical narrative was the perceived need for definitive rigor and clarity. Similar modifiers were used to describe the standards in both mens language: standards are clear, high, academic ; rigorous higher associated with excellence ; clearly written clearly defined and specific However, calls for increased top-down state control represented a challenge to the autonomy of local school boards. Given the rhetorical challenge of shifting public attitudes towards the need for centralization of curriculum control, each man, in introductory letters independently presented to the public, made use of textual an d rhetorical strategies which had the effect of establishing the need for standards, while allaying fears that they would result in a state-mandated curriculum. They also both postponed any clear indication of how districts would be held accountable for meeting these standards. The use of that aspect of English grammar wh ich places the new information in a sentence second (in the rheme) and given information in the beginning (the theme) enables speakers and writers to portray innovations as established fa ct and was a textual device each man used in selling standards to the public (Fairclough, 1992; Hallid ay, 1994; Woodside-Jiron, 2004). One example of this shift appears in Bensons first letter introducing the DPI standards. In his first paragraph discussed below, Benson quoted from the Business Roundtable to posit that new technologies and other changes would require new academic skills of our young people to meet the employment demands of the future. The second paragraph quoted below puts forth the argument for standards. Each subsequent sentence treats the new assertions of each previous sentence as given information. In this example, given information is underlined, and new information is in bold. Benson begins with a reference to the preceding paragraph: These and other challenges require higher standards of excellence to improve academic performance The only way to ensure that Wisconsi ns students have the skills and abilities to be successful in this rapidly changing technological world is to set clear, high, academic standards These standards must describe precisely what todays students must learn and be able to do to be successful in their adult lives. (Benson, 1996a) By the end of the paragraph, these standards are accepted as fact and in the following paragraphs are referred to as developing and soon to be implemented. In each of these letters, Thompson and Benson use this sort of comple x construction to introduce the need for standards. Once this is accomplished, and the focus of the letters shifts to the steps to be taken, the structures of the theme elements of their sentences tend to be simpler. A common rhetorical device that each writer use d early on in these introductory letters, and which serves the function of reinforcing the message established by the sentence grammar, is the use of quotations by an authority which serves to co nvince the reader that a situation exists which requires the correction that the proposed standa rds will provide. However, these quotes are interesting at another level. While Benson and Thompson shared a similar model of how standards function, these quotes begin to show their differences in their arguments for the need for standards, what sorts of learning should be going on in Wisconsin classrooms, and the approach each man would take in the upcoming struggle to make th e Wisconsin standards fit his vision. These are not just differences in style, but are reflected in th e substance of the standard s that each man proposed as the basis of state curriculum, and thus what teac hers and students would find themselves focusing time and attention on in the future. In Bensons letter introducing the Draft DPI st andards to Wisconsin taxpayers, the United States business community speaks through a national publication: Todays youth will face enormous challe nges in the competitive world of the twenty-first century. As the Business Roundtable has observed, Only a generation
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 28 removed from the time when hard work, a strong ba ck, and common sense could secure a decent job, young people are faced with todays global, informationbased economy defined by constantly ch anging technology. Not only must todays students learn adva nced academic skills, but th ey must also gain the flexibility to learn and adapt to changi ng conditions and job demands throughout their lifetimes. (Benson, 1996a) This quotation reveals Bensons al legiance to the standards as derived from an essentially neoliberal perspective, as he evokes discourses of business management an d the sense of crisis and change in the glob al economy. The need for standards comes from a world portrayed as undergoing rapid, continuous change Given the shifting needs of the workplace, the workers of tomorrow will need to be cognit ively different, with more adva nced and flexible cognitive functioning. In the following para graph, he reminds the reader of the skills and ab ilities to be successful in this rapidly changi ng technological world. In an other letter, at tached to the second draft of the standards, he goes into more detail about the types of learning he is referring to, process learning usually associated with constructivist teaching philosophy: Writing, speaking, listening, reading, solving problems, c onducting experiments, an d evaluating ideas are processes that must be prod ucts of an excellent education (Benson, 1996b). Still, there is a fundamental contradiction within Bensons ideas of what standards should be, revealed not only in these letters, but in the deve loping drafts of the standards themselves, as discussed below. If standards function to specify what students should know and are able to do to be successful in their adult lives, but that target is continually moving, how can that be specified statewide for teaching and assessment? What becomes more salient, the flexibility or the specificity? The majority of Bensons writing discusses how to achieve the latterthe last paragraph of his letter contrasts strongly with the first: Our young people deserve clear direction for learning in our classrooms; if students apply themselves, I believe they can succeed in school and in life. We owe them clear explanations of whats ex pected of them and an opportunity to practice, learn and perform . The first an d most important st ep is to prepare these rigorous standards. (Benson, 1996a) While the expert educator in Benson may have been excited about the possibilities of flexibility, change, and lifelong learning, he never successf ully resolved the cont radiction between these two faces of neoliberalis m of change versus stasis: that wh ich looks to prepare workers for a new, continually-changing economy (Reich, 1991) and that which frames schools as a place of controlled standardization and ac countability based on testable curriculum content (Achieve, 2000; Fairclough, 2003). Because he chose to take the nurturant parent role associated with a constructivist approach and th e invitation for citize n involvement (Lakoff, 1995), Benson would allow the taxpayers and the governor to push him towards the second choice. Identifying Neoliberal Tensions in Early DP I English Language Ar ts Standards Drafts The first two drafts of the standards, developed under DPI auspices by committees of educators, citizens, and DPI staff (here referred to as DPI Draft 1 and DPI Draft 2), reveal some of this movement and some of these conflicts. Our analysis focuses on the literature standards for ninth through twelfth grades, part of the Englis h Language Arts (ELA) standards. These were organized under three subheadings. The subheading Students will read and discuss literature to understand themselves and others (p. 6) shows evidence of tensions among various factions concerned with the study of
Fissures in Standards Formulation 29 literature: liberal, neoliberal, and conservative. In th e first draft, the traditional liberals seem to exert their influence, as expressed in a number of pe rformance standards referring to students using literature to better understand themselves and othe rs. This was the only draft to emphasize the use of literature for self-exploration: Students would Respond personally and Make connections between their reading and what they already know by identifying experiences that are common to themselves and to the characters they read abou t (p. 6). The more conservative concept of literature as a body of content was weakest in this dr aft, and seemed linked to the project of learning about others in order to gain some sympath etic understanding and broaden student horizons: Students would Read literature to comprehend pl aces, people, times and events both familiar and unfamiliar and Gain insight into cultures and an alyze different cultural perspectives (p. 6). However, these therapeutic (Bernstein, 2000) goals did not survive public scrutiny. The public forums held throughout the state for citize n comment and the written feedback to the first draft apparently motivated a change. In DPI Draft 2, this section went from being the longest of the three to the shortest, and there is only one specifi c reference to self-exploration: connect themes from literature to self and others (Wisconsin DP I, 1996b, p. 25). Other discussions of motive, behavior, and consequences are now confined to characters. In addition, this section now specifically includes references to literary herita ge code words and phrases, as in, Read and discuss literature of various historical periods and cultures ranging from the classical world to the present (emphasis added). Other cultures are still menti oned: Discuss how others resolve issues and conflicts across cultures and throughout history in literature; Compare knowledge of heritage culture, and life experiences to literature (p. 25). While language related to history and heritage is layered onto this section, it is not as the foundation for a strongly content-based literature cu rriculum rooted in Anglo-American heritage, as advocated by conservative forces (e.g., Stotsky, 20 05). What is interesting here is that there is no evaluative difference between other cultures and our own, present and past. The literature helps us understand the history, the history helps us unders tand the literature, which functions as a reflection of its place and time. The same is true for crosscultural understanding; it all helps us understand present issues and ourselves. This pattern is more evident in the comprehensive resource list for teachers attached to the literature standards in Draft 2 (p. 26). This was a complete page of annotated lists of organizations, publications, and websites recommending books for children and young adults for use in classrooms. These organizations include the Amer ican Library Associati on, literacy education organizations such as the National Council of Te achers of English and the International Reading Association, various multi-cultural associations including Kaleidoscope, the Cooperative Childrens Book Center, as well as resources specific to Wisconsin. Literary merit is apparently secondary to engagement in this list that emphasizes young ad ult and multi-cultural books. While there is one book list entitled, Outstanding Books for the Colle ge-bound, there are six specifically related to multicultural literature, including two devoted to Native American literature, and the annotations make frequent references to these books appeal to young readers. The subheading Students will read to interpret and critically analyze literary works relied on New Criticism as the default model for literary analysis in both drafts. This was more developed in the second draft, most likely in response to public requests for greater specificity: for example, Draft 1s Interpret literary devices (Wisconsin DPI, 1996a, p. 6) became Analyze the effect of literary devices such as figurative language, allusi on, dialect, dialogue, and symbolism on a selection in Draft 2 (Wisconsin DPI, 1996b, p. 25). This section provided a good example of the movement towards specificity and stasis mentioned above, wh ile the use of New Criticism suits the neoliberal call for critical reading of a particular, technica l stamp, reading that can be assessed through standardized measurements, as AP and the SAT have been doing for years.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 30 However, it is under the subheading, Students will read to acquire information that the growing influence of the neoliberal faction can be seen between DPI Drafts 1 and 2. While literatures therapeutic role diminishes, its role as a tool for teaching particular reading skills needed in the workplace becomes more important, even t hough this backgrounds the literary qualities of texts. In Draft 2, this section goes from being th e shortest to the longest section of the Literature standard, growing from four bullets to ten, and dealing with a variety of document types and skills: Investigate and critically analyze in formation to arrive at defensible conclusions Understand and use technical reports, technical manuals, historical papers, and government documents Develop hypotheses to invest igate an issue or dilemm a (DPI Draft 2, p. 25) Such standards seem to reflect a general reluctanc e to define a literar y type of text and reading, a move in tension with those who ad ded the literary heritage language to other performance standards. An examination of the concepts of literature in Drafts 1 and 2 reveals a tension between more traditional liberal forces interested in literatur e as a tool for making students more self-aware and more other-aware, and the neoliberal advoca tes who want to prepare students for the newcapitalist future. Understanding others in the worl d is good in a global economy, but being able to access information in and across a variety of texts is absolutely crucial. This co-exists with the more conservative expectation that students will learn to do New Critical analysis of literary texts, consistent with other themes in Bensons letter: the call for clarity and rigor, the need for specificity and accountability. In basing analysis on an outmoded model of criticism and in moving away from literature study that enables students to link the study of literature to their lives or current issues, the framers of the DPI standards were also moving away from flexibility and constructivist models of pedagogy, thus beginning to resolve the neoliberal conflicts expressed in Bensons letter in the direction of specificity and accountability. Neoconservative Standards for Wisconsin Tommy Thompson was less conflicted about his goals and about his role in developing standards. In his letter introducing the Hudson Institutes Modern Red Schoolhouse (MRS) Standards to Wisconsin citizens (Thompson, 1997 a), he opposes flexibility and process. Words like flexibility and change are conspicuously minimi zed in Thompsons letter. He repeats the phrase core set: core set of skills and knowledge, cor e set of subject areas, which are always English, math, science, history, and geography. This idea is repeated in the Executive Order 302 that directs the development of a set of standards in the core subject areas (Thompson, 1997b). He approves of the Modern Red Schoolhouse standards not only because of their rigor, but because they give equal weight to the bricks and mortar of education: knowledge and skills (Thompson, 1997a; apparently borrowing from Finn, quoted earlier on p. 19 of this article). In his letters early quote, Thompson himself is the self-proclaimed educational expert being quoted in the Forward of a national publication he was instrumental in promoting as chairman of the Education Commission of the States (ECS) in or der to encourage states to embrace standardsdriven reform. In the Forward, he states: We can no longer tolerate a situation where too many students are leaving schools without having learne d the core set of skills an d knowledge they will need to be successful . The first most importa nt step to correct this situation and
Fissures in Standards Formulation 31 improve the performance of students is to agree on clear standards for what students ought to know and be able to do in a core set of subjec t areas: English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. (Thompson, 1997a, p. 1) In both the prior, national ro les (as chairman of this group and the Na tional Governors Association) and as governor of Wisconsin, he played the respons ible executive, or, in Lakoffs terms, the strict father correcting a situation which had become intolerable by drawing boundaries around the essential kn owledge required in a limited number of subject areas. He therefore enacts the need for a strong leader per ceived as taking charge and establishing control through adopting an unambiguous, definitive rh etorical stance and re-e stablishing traditional subject-matter in Wisconsin sch ools. The repeated emphasis on core sets also marks him as opposed to a constructivist approach, which would work from the abilities and interests students in various communities in Wisconsin might bring into the classroom: Once standards are defined, our studen ts can achieve at high levels. He frames this contention as nondebatable and as legitimated by the official auth ority of The Hudson Institute. He also implies that because the standards have b een completed, contrary to Benson, there is only minimal need for further citizen input. The Modern Red Schoolhouse Standards Our analysis of the high school literature standards in the Modern Red Schoolhouse Standards (MRS) that this letter introduces reve als the influence of the neoconservative stance on curriculum (Modern Red Schoolhouse, 1997). The Modern Red Schoolhouse Project, headed by Dr. Sally Kilgore, was sponsored by the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. One of the striking aspects of these standards is their brevity; in sp ite of Thompsons proclamation that these standards would finally provide specific guidelines for students and teachers, they actually are more prone to the high-sounding, vague statement, and are less detailed in spelling out the types of learning which would take place than DPI Drafts 1 and 2. These standards seem to imply a pre-existing consensus about content-matter knowledge and how it is learned that one need only refer to. What is important is clearly marking the parameters arou nd that body of knowle dge (Bernstein, 2000; Lakoff, 1995). It is clear that self-exploration and multi-cult uralism are out, and Anglo-American cultural heritage is in. While the MRS standards do not detail specific activities, texts, periods, cultures, etc., there are more standards related to models of literat ure as an expression of its place and time and as a body of content knowledge, and these standard s are listed first, indicating their prominence (emphasis added): Standard 1: Each student can draw on a broad base of knowledge about American, British, Europe an, and non-European literature and recognize the conventions associated with the literat ure of certain historical periods and cultures. Standard 2: Each student can draw on a broad base of knowledge about the great themes of literature for example, themes of initiation, love and duty, heroism, illusion and rea lity, salvation, death and rebirthand explain how these themes are developed in specific work s from various hist orical periods and cultures
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 32 Standard 3: Each student can draw on a broad base of knowledge about great works images and ideas, episodes, charac ters, quotations, and so onwhen reflecting about life an d literature. (p. 9) The broad base of knowledge, the conventions associated with a variety of literatures from different historical periods and cultures (with American and British leading the list) are the testable content that provides English with the knowledge ba se that is the bric ks of the bricks and mortar Thompson discusses in his reference to a knowledge and skills -based curriculum. Stotsky (2005) points out that lit erature is central to the English curriculum, and that its neglect or mishandling is perhap s the greatest obst acle to standards reform. As in the above standards, Stotsky leaves undefined just what works are to be taught and what the crit eria are for a work to be considered great. It is notable that, at this point, the Hudson Institut e also does not specify which works of literature are worth reading, but leaves that up to the school districts of Wisconsin. It is unclear whether this shows sensitivity to Wisconsins tradition of local control of curriculum, or indicates an assumption that we share an understanding of the great works and great themes of our literary heritage. Completely missing from the MRS upper level standards are any references to relating literature to on es personal experience, although there are brief references to this made at the elementary and intermediate levels. As in the DPI Draft standards, New Criticism is the default critical mode, and it is integrated into these standards, but in less detail than in the DPI standards. Instead, the MRS standards that owe the most to New Criticism are very general and, umbrella-like, cover much of what teachers do with analysis in college prep classrooms. Standa rd 5 also shows the common tendency in American schools to blend New Criticism with a weak hist oricism (Applebee, 1993; Caughlan, 2004), which underscores the strength of the cultural herita ge model in the MRS standards (emphasis added): Standard 5: Each student can explain the structure of certain passages of literature from various historical periods and cultures illustrating th e authors use of syntax, images, figures of speech, literary and cultural allusions, symbols, irony, and other devices in the context of history, cultures, and literary style (p. 9) Students are expected to learn the tools of th e New Critic, but these are mentioned almost in passing, subordinated to the main purpose of learning the great themes and ideas of our literary heritage. The dearth of language promoting language an d skills useful to navigating the workplace of the 21st century was a surprise in the MRS English Language Arts standards. Thompson was considered a very business-friendly governor, an d we expected to find mo re attention to technical reading and writing, integration of technology, and crit ical reading and writing in these standards, to go along with the focus on traditional conten t knowledge. Kilgore ev en mentions using the Department of Labors SCANS report in preparin g the standards, but its recommendations are difficult to spot, not only in the reading standards, but in the research and listening areas of the ELA standards. The range of extra-literary reading used to lear n critical reading detailed in the DPI Drafts has been reduced to reading essays and articles in the two performance standards related to contentarea reading: Standard 6: Given an essay, each stud ent can identify it s central idea or ideas and explain ho w the author has developed the essay through coordination and subordination. Standard 7: Each student can distinguish fact from opinion in an article, identify propaganda techniques and fallac ious reasoning, and integrate knowledge from the article into prior know ledge about the topic. (p. 9)
Fissures in Standards Formulation 33 The research and listening standards contain more on managing in formation, but these standards have much less than the DPI stan dards on the sorts of neoliberal reading for information, critical reading, pr eparing for the new-capi talist workplace skills evident in the DPI standards. However, some of those skills bord er on questioning authority, which, as Lakoff (1995) points out, is not a legiti mate activity for minors where the strict father is in charge. Strict-father versus nurturant-parent discourses shaping involve ment of constituencies. There are also tensions between Thompsons top-down approach of imposing standards and Bensons bottom-up approach to soliciting constituent involvement in framing standards. Leading up to the introductory quote in the Thompson letter, discussed above, is a series of five I-statements by Thompson: I chaired these two national committees, I re-focused the countrys attention on educational excellence, I advanced the issue of standards-driven reform, and I directed ECS to produce this document, in which Forward I stated important facts (Thom pson, 1997a, p. 1). Later in the letter, he informs us that he reviewed nume rous standards documents before choosing the MRS standards, and that he adapted and adopted them for presentation to Wisconsin citizens. He has been a busy fellow, and he is not finished: he intends to establish a public engagement process to obtain some input from Wisconsin citizens on a final version of these standards (p. 2). He does not mention in this document or in the Executive Order which established the public engagement process that John Benson and the DPI had been developing content standards for the previous eighteen months (Thompson, 1997b). In contrast, Benson placed himself in the grammatical subject position only three times in his introductory letter: I seek your participation; I ask each of you to send me your comments; and I believe [students] can succeed (Benson, 1996a). However, because of the constitutional p eculiarities of Wisconsin, which has a democratically elected Superintendent of Public Instruction and local control of curriculum, Thompson could not impose state standards by fiat. The one place he does use We (outside of the quotation above) is towards the end of the letter, in a brief paragraph where he introduces the idea of citizen input into the standards process: We also need to involve many groups of stakeholders in ou r efforts to develop local high class standards. In association with educators we need active involvement by citizens/taxpayers, pare nts, business lead ers and students themselves. (Thompson, 1997a, p. 2) It is unclear who this we indicates, or why he relinquishes disc ursive control at ju st this juncture. In the next paragrap h he goes back to talking about what I will do to esta blish the public engagement process. In comparison with Bensons process of standards-writing, it was a very limited process of public engagement. As stated in the Executive Orde r, the whole point of using the Modern Red Schoolhouse Standards and referring to others states standards was to save critical time in the standards developm ent process, (Thompson, 1997b, p. 1) and while the committee was instructed to al so seek input and assistance from parents, educators and the business and labor comm unities as well as c itizens of Wisconsin no t affiliated with the educational community, the proc ess was to take not more than one year (Tho mpson, 1997b, p. 2). Benson was also an elected executive, the Supe rintendent of the De partment of Public Instruction. He was a certified as well as a self-pro claimed expert in educational issues, and had at his command a large building full of people bris tling with advanced degrees and many years of experience in education. He could have taken a si milar strong executive role, but chose to adopt a more democratic, inclusive role, closer to Lakoffs (1995) nurturant parent role. Where Thompson used I to refer to actions taken by his administration, Benson tended to use we which from context obviously referred to himself and his colleagues at the DPI.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 34 The nurturant parent role plays out in government in attempting to strengthen social ties through empathy, fairness, and hearing all voices. In Bensons case, this became evident in the way he set out to develop the standards: write the st andards in several drafts, disseminate the drafts throughout the state, and present numerous opportu nities for comment, both in writing and at public forums throughout the state. The standards th emselves were written by groups consisting of DPI employees, teachers, parents and other interes ted parties (Benson, 1996a), whose sometimes conflicting interests were reflected in the standards themselves, as seen in our analysis of Drafts 1 and 2, above. Bensons first letter is full of invitations to Wisc onsin citizens to take part in the standards process: We are asking you to help revise and improve these preliminary drafts. Your thoughts and ideas will ensure that the most important know ledge and skills are included. There are five separate requests for citizen input in this first letter as well as a full explanation of how citizens have been involved up to this point, and how the standards will progress from this point. However, the letter going out with the second draft raises questions about whether or not the voters of Wisconsin really wanted openness an d flexibility, or whether they wanted the strict father to set firm boundaries around educational goals. Benson reports the variety of responses he received on a variety of issues, and in the interest of fairness (a nurturant parent trait, according to Lakoff), we have attempted to balance the views on all sides of these issues. You will find the standards much more clearly stated. You will find a considerably greater degree of specificity without usurping the curricular control of local districts. Though adding specificity, we have not neglected processes (Benson, 1996b). This last comment indicates that specificity is a code word for stasis, for spelling out and setting down what is to be learned. As a nurturant parent and consensusbuilder, he had to compromise on the more constructivist processes and add more specificity to the standards because that is what he wa s hearing from constituents for whom standards connoted clarity and rigor Thompsons strict father movethe announcement of the Modern Red Schoolhouse Standards as the basis for the Wisconsin State Standardswould soon put an end to Bensons experiment in inclusive standards writing. Benson s expertise as educator and his nurturant-parent approach could not compete with the governors political power. In addition, Benson could not oppose Thompson because he agreed with the governor about the need for rigorous, clear, academic standards. Over the next year, Benson serv ed as one of only two educators on Thompsons Governors Council on Model Academic Standards (the other was a conservative professor from outside of Madison hand-picked by Thompson), but because the Council also used the DPI work as a basis for the Standards, and the DPI staff did much of the compiling and writing, the work the educators had done over the previous two years was not completely lost. Wisconsins Model Academic Standa rds: Who Won the Culture Wars? The standards developed by Thompsons council and adopted in January, 1998, were presented with an introduction that signaled a bridging of the neoconservative and neoliberal divide.2 Its brief historical background recognized the two years of DPI work, the Modern Red Schoolhouse standards, and gave nods to other st ates, including Virginia (whose neoconservative standards were prepared under the leadership of Cheri Pierson Yecke) and the New Standards Project (a more neoliberal document). In the Eng lish Language Arts standards, the wording of the Reading/Literature content standard and the Rati onale were taken directly from the Literature and 2 The standards are available at http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/standards/index.html
Fissures in Standards Formulation 35 Reading standards in the DPI drafts. However, th e Performance standards are quite different and show the influence of the MRS standards. An analysis of that standard for its conception of literature also shows resistance to the influence of those standards. In looking at literature as an object of analysis, it is not surprising that New Criticism implicitly remains the model for academic literary cr iticism in the standards, as it was the dominant model in the preceding drafts. However, considering Thompsons call to make what students should know and be able to do explicit (Thompson, 1997a, p. 1), it is interesting that this document relies more on the MRS standards as a model for descri bing critical analysis, which they did in a very vague way, and not on DPI Draft 2, which spelled ou t the types of tasks students do in analysis rather clearly. Instead, as in the MRS standards, New Critical techniques are listed as in service to larger aims of explaining how a work reflects its culture, or portrays a universal theme: ELA A.12.2: Explain the stru cture of selected classical and contemporary works of literature, in whole and in part, from various cultur es and historical periods, and illustrate ways in whic h authors use syntax, imagery, figures of speech, allusions, symbols, irony, and other device s in the context of history, culture, and style. The references to history and culture remain in relation to literary analysis. However, the emphasis on the broad base of knowledge about great works that was so prominent in the MRS standards is largely missing. At first glance, it is not obvious that the MRS emphasis on the cultural model of literature as an expression of our Anglo-American cultural heri tage has been undercut. In fact, the introduction to the ELA standards includes a paragraph headed, Great Authors and Literary Works which begins, Human beings have produced a rich treasur y of great writing. However, the main thrust of this paragraph is to explain that Wisconsin leaves which great works will be read up to the individual district to decide. What is most important is that students learn to read well and read enough to meet their various needs and interests, that they have opportunities to read quality literature, and that they love to read. Exactly which works ar e read may vary from community to community. Selected resources are listed after the reading/literature standard. While the reading/literature performance standards clearly borrow from the MRS performance standards, they also modify them. The first MRS performance standard listed the literatures that students would be familiar with: American, British, European, and non-European... certain historical periods and cultures. This has been dropped. The modifiers contemporary and classical have been added, making room for contemporary works. Finally, literary text or literature is used, rather than making referen ce to literature from historical periods or literary periods, thus keeping the texts studied in school less tied to passing the test of time. (ELA A. 12.2) In addition, a look at the selected resources mentioned in the Great Authors paragraph indicates that Wisconsins growing interest in youn g adult and multi-cultural literature over the last twenty years continued to be encouraged, if som ewhat quietly, by the DPI. This is a shortened version of the list of resources published in DPI Draft 2, which focused largely on childrens, young adult, and multi-cultural literature. The only hint that the Hudson Institute has been here is the addition of two websites at the end of the list: Project Bartleby (An archive of actual texts of classic works on the Web) and Project Gutenberg (Another archive of actual texts of classic books). While these suggested works might celebrate youth and cultural diversity, the earlier focus of the DPI drafts on analyzing different cultural perspectives has undergone a subtle shift. Under sub-heading 12.3, Read and discuss literary and non literary texts in order to understand human experience are the following pair of performance standards:
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 36 Examine, explain, and evaluate, orally and in writing, va rious perspectives concerning individual, community, nati onal, and world issues reflected in literary and nonliterary texts Develop and articulate, orally and in writing, defensible points of view on individual, community, national, and wo rld issues reflected in literary and nonliterary texts. Rather than link students to literature through th eir personal experience or through attempts to empathize with others, the task is to examine, explai n, and evaluate... issues reflected in literary and nonliterary texts. The second step in this process is to de velop and defend points of view on these issues. This seems more related to the in creasing focus on teaching students to write persuasive essays than to develop understa nding, more closely related to the neoliberal project of using literature to teach crit ical reading and writing skills. However, this final draft of the standards se parates the teaching of literature from the teaching of reading strategies to acquire informat ion or analyze or evaluate an argument. They are separated under different subheadings, as are literary texts and non-literary texts. The sorts of critical reading associated with the literature standards are those one usually associates with literary reading, such as those delineated in the standards already mentioned, or analyzing a text for its themes or the authors views. Literature is no longer just anothe r tool for preparing students for the twenty-firstcentury workplace. A Discourse of Bland Consensus Wisconsins Model Academic Standards are neither a strongly neoliberal nor neoconservative document. While Wisconsin did en d up adopting state content standards that it would soon use as the basis for required standardized tests, Thompsons strict father move did not work as planned when it came to the language arts standards in general, and literature in particular. He was not able to replace the neoliberal agenda with a neoconservative one; in fact, the neoconservative literature curriculum was largely resi sted, both in terms of the types of texts, and the sorts of knowledge that would have been privileged. The extent to which he failed can be read in the Fordham Foundations The State of State Engl ish Standards 2005 (Stotsky, 2005), which gave the Wisconsin ELA standards only a C, largely b ecause its literature standards do not spell out significant authors, works, literary periods, and li terary traditions... to provide the contours of the substantive content of the English curriculum for the secondary grades (p. 71). However, the liberals and neoliberals did not end up crafting coherent standards which reflected their philosophies, either. Most of the multi-cultural and personal knowledge standards were wiped from the standards, but they were largely gone after the round of public meetings he ld after the first draft of the DPI standards was released. More surprising was the weakening of the supposedly businessfriendly critical reading standards. This analysis suggests that groups like the Hudson Institute are at odds with the groups that are looking to promote critical thinking, creative problem-solving and lifelong, thinking-outside-the-box sorts of experiences. Instead, the Hudson Institutes idea of training for the future is to analyze the inductive or deducti ve structure of an essay, or to tell fact from opinion in an article. But to evaluate the reliability and authenticity of information conveyed in a text (Wisconsin DPI, 1996b, p. 25) is crossing a line for those who find it inappropriate for young people to challenge authority. These compromises represented tensions between Bensons neoliberal appeal to address the economic needs of a global economy through de velopment of technical communication and problem-solving skills versus Thompsons focus on the need for a more content-based curriculum
Fissures in Standards Formulation 37 reflecting traditional social values. The result is a document that neither defends our intellectual heritage nor breaks new ground in preparing child ren for a changing world. There is little or no focus on critical literacy or media literacy practice s central to participation in contemporary society. Instead, Wisconsin has inscribed the status quo into a compromise document that presents the teaching of literature as a rather humdrum experi ence, but one that can be described and assessed using standardized instruments. Development of the Minnesota Standards From the early 1990s to 2004, Minnesota developed and implemented two completely different sets of standards. The first set of stan dards, known as the Profile of Learning and its associated curriculum, was based on previous attempts to implement outcome-based education (OBE) in the 1980s. These standards were based on constructivist learning and an inquiry/projectbased curriculum, with an evaluation system em ploying performance assessment as opposed to content-based tests. Development of the Profile of Learning standards was justified through neoliberal appeals for the need to acquire constructivist and problem-solving skills appropriate for the new global economic system and workplaces Critiques of various problems with its implementation led to its repeal by the state legisl ature and its replacement by a more content-based set of standards, the Minnesota Academic Standards, a replacement justified by a more neoconservative appeal for the need to learn basic content. Given these two competing sets of standards, we were interested in how neoliberal and neoconservative discourses were used to justify the va lue of each set of standards, with a particular focus on the English language arts standards. Such an analysis reflects the ways in which ideological assumptions voiced by external agencies served to frame curriculum development at the state level, a representation of an increasing influence of po litical forces and the diminishing influence of educators on curriculum development (Bernstein, 2000). The Profile of Learning During the 1990s, the Profile of Learning was developed based on input from various educator groups who were asked to specify what students needed to know and be able to do. However, another major thrust for its devel opment and implementation was the concern of community and business leaders about workforce preparation in a global economy. Much of the Profile developers focus on replacing seat ti me with performance-based assessment and the development of self-directed learners and prod uctive group participants was linked to the philosophy of Goals 2000 as developed during th e first President Bush and Clinton administrations (Avery, Beach, & Coler, 2003). It also framed stan dards in terms of specific behaviors or cognitive processes while, at the same time, limiting the number of standards to avoid the problem that plagued the behavior-objective appr oach of the 1970s of creating multitudes of specific objectives. This neoliberal project was associated with the need to develop students who could engage in problem-solving, inquiry-based learning so that th ey would be able to adapt to different social and cultural contexts associated with the global econo my (Reich, 1991). A primary assumption was that students learned these workplace practices thro ugh engaging in hands-on learning projects and through being evaluated using performance-based criteria. By the late 1990s, the emerging Profile was organized around ten learning areas Two of these were specific to English language arts: Read, view, and listen to complex information in the
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 38 English language and Write and speak effectively in the English language. Several other learning areas incorporated language arts in more inter disciplinary projects (e.g., Conduct research and communicate findings; Understand interactions between people and cultures). Students were required to complete work in 24 of 48 high standards in these ten areas in order to graduate. For each of the two areas that focused on lang uage arts, there were two or more content standards developed for high school, middle school, and elementary grade levels. For example, the following content standard for middle school stud ents is associated wi th the Read, View and Listen learning area: Literature and Arts Analysis and Interpretation. A student shall demonstrate the ability to interpret and evaluate complex works of music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, or media arts by doing the following: A. describing the elements and stru cture of the art form; the artistic intent; and the historical, cultural, and social background of the selected art works; B. applying specific critical criteria to interpret and analyze the selected art works; C. describing how particular effects ar e produced by the artists use of the elements of the art form; and D. communicating an informed interpretation using the vocabulary of the art form. (Avery, Beach, & Coler, 2003, 14) This literature standard incorporates some of the more traditional knowledge and skills associated with literature study: for example, th e use of formalist analys is in describing the elements and structure of the art form; describ ing how particular effect s are produced by the artists use of the elements of the art form; and using cultural and historical background in interpretation. However, th is standard also deviates from a more traditional literature curriculum by defining literature as art to be evaluated acco rding to aesthetic criteria, a relatively unusual conception of literature in state standards. In addition, studying literat ure is framed in multidisciplinary terms as integrated into the larger project of arts appreciati on, an interdisciplinary approach that created difficultie s in attempting to implement th is standard across the boundaries of traditional scho ol disciplines. To assist teachers in the implementation of these standards, the Minnesota state education department developed a set of performance packages addressing the different standards and designed to model the implementation of constr uctivist, project/performance-based learning. Each package contained specific teaching activities and performance assessment criteria. For example, for the Read, View, and Listen learning area related to literature, packages were developed involving development of a group play involving an animal character through movement, sound and rhythm, voice, costume, and props; creation of a character autobiography and character interview leading to the development of a script and performance; keep ing journal responses to literature; creating a travel guide to the fictional world of the story or novel; and writing a review of a novel. Many teachers and administrators assumed th at these packages constituted mandated curriculum instead of recognizing them as illustrative examples of constructivist teaching and performance assessment. Many teachers resented havi ng to replace their curriculum with what they assumed was a mandated curriculum. Teachers also perceived the Profile as complex and difficult to implement; a poll conducted by the states teacher un ion of 603 teachers in Spring, 1999 found that 63% opposed the Profile and only 30% supported it (Bradley, 1999). The teachers focused their concerns particularly on the lack of training in how to conduct performance assessments, the excessive amount of record keeping and paperw ork, and the difficulty of implementing the
Fissures in Standards Formulation 39 performance packages. For example, one teacher who favored a focus on constructivist learning noted that assessing these packages using a 1 throug h 4 grading system was un realistic: I teach 150 kids, 30 an hour. Its an unbelievable amount of work to sit down with each of them and go through these assessments (Profile of Learning, 1999, p. 9). There is evidence that the Profile was serving to foster higher-order thinking. A study conducted of 171 English teachers and 487 social studies teachers perceptions of the Profile found that 51% of the teachers perceived an increase in th eir students higher order thinking as a result of implementing the Profile (Avery, Beach, & Coler, 2003). Many teachers noted that their students engagement with more hands-on, project-based learni ng fostered their ability to formulate their own ideas and knowledge. A key factor in teachers percepti ons of the value of the Profil e was the extent and quality of their training in constructivist teaching methods and use of performance assessment. Those teachers who rated their training and/or their access to re sources as good or excellent were much more likely to report positive student outcomes associated with the Profile (Avery, Beach, & Coler, 2003), results that were confirmed in another study (S wenson, 2001). However, less than 10% of the teachers perceived their preparation and resources to be excellent, and over one-third of the teachers rated their preparation and resources as poor. Teacher critiques reflect a primary issue with wh at are perceived as top-down state-mandated curriculum agendas without the necessary support an d training, that position teachers with limited professional authority over their instruction. One commentator described teachers reactions to the initial implementation as one of lack of trust (Nelson, 1998): I was struck by the unspoken equally phenomenal lack of trust that inspired this centralized curriculum initiative. Minnesotas professional educators are essentially being told that someone elsea politician, a community leader, a bureaucrat, another teacher knows better what perfor mance should be expected of their students. (p. 681) Because much of the initial just ification for the Profile was form ulated in terms of neoliberal discourse associated with preparing students fo r the workplace, teachers were also critical of the attempt to lay a business model over an ed ucational system [that] reduced education to an accounting system rather than a human growth sy stem (Avery, Beach, & Col er, 2003, p. 32). In describing what they perceived as an accounting system, the teachers were therefore critical of the neoliberal assumptions, particularly in ter ms of the cumbersome measurement practices, underlying the Profile. However, a much more vocal critique of the Profile emerged from conservatives and neoconservatives, who perceived the constructivist orie ntation of the Profile as undermining the need for teaching academic su bject matter and values. Neoconservative Critiques of the Profile of Learning The Profile came under attack from neocons ervative groups both outside and inside Minnesota. Outside the state, in their reports an alyzing state standards, the Fordham Foundation and Achieve gave the Profile low marks in comparis on to the more content-based standards of other states. For example, the Fordham Foundations study of state English standards, conducted primarily by Sandra Stotsky (1997, 2000), gave th e Profile a failing grade. Because some of the standards were written with concepts such as appreciate or engage to avoid the behaviorism associated with behavioral objectives, a large numb er of standards are not specific, measurable, or demanding. Moreover, literary study gets short shri ft (Stotsky, 2000, p. 28) In contrast, her review of the 1998 Wisconsin standards praises the clear expectation that students use Standard English
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 40 and the inclusion of the history of the English lang uage, although she criticizes the standards for not including specific literary texts. Stotsky was also critic al of the fact that in a constructivist approach to literature instruction, students were connecting li terature to their personal experience, or reading selections representing various cultural ... persp ectives, that represent diverse points of view (Stotsky, 2005, p. 29). Her critique of literature instruction aligned with alternative, multicultural perspectives aligns with the political critique of the Profile by Minnesota groups as representing a decline in the authority of the political status quo. The Profile standards were also analyzed by Ac hieve, a bi-partisan organization composed of politicians and CEOs with a strong focus on standa rdization and accountability. Achieves analysis (2000) reflected both neoconservative and neoliberal stances. It was critical of the lack of content knowledge given the Profiles focus on how studen ts show what they have learned than what they have learned (p. 10). At the same time, Achi eve critiqued the lack of specificity in describing the curriculum knowledge students should attain: the standards are silent on the quantity, quality and complexity of what students in various grade levels should be able to read (p. 23). Consistent with Achieves focus on aligning state standards with standardized test results, they were also critical of the use of local performance projects as not providing valid and reliable evaluation measures of student achievement. In a follow-up review of the Profile standards, Achieve (2001) argued for the need for a greater alignment of standards with state assessments or tests so that test questions correspond to the standards, a match between the content of the te st items and standard content, as well as the tasks of the test items ( identify analyze etc.) and the standard tasks, and that the test items are challenging in that students know they need to provide correct answers. Internal groups critiques. The Profile was also critiqued by internal state groups, critiques that also reflected various ideological perspectives. These included the conservative think tank Center for the American Experiment; the Maple River Education Coalition, a parent group; and evangelical Christians, who perceived the Profile as focusing on values as opposed to content subject matter and as promoting a relativist pers pective on learning. Parents and conservative educators united with conservative political groups who were critical of what they perceived as a loss of traditional authority associated with the need to return to a content-based, back-to-the-basics curriculum. The notion that students were enga ging in constructing their own knowledge represented a challenge to the idea of the teacher or parent who imparts knowledge rather than fosters knowledge construction. The concern about a perceived sense of loss of adult authority had a high political appeal to the conservative and evangelical constituencies in the state. The Center for the American Experiment, a conservative Minneapolis think tank, published a series of critiques of the Profile and sponsored editorial columns by Katherine Kersten. Kersten was not a professional educator, holding a law degree and an M.B.A., but her articles for the foundation made use of educational and psychologic al research. In an interesting rhetorical move, she appropriates the educational ps ychological discourse of schema theory, which is foundational to the constructivist philosophy, to attack constructivist theory: Cognitive psychology establishes that to make sense of a new thing, we need a mental framework in which to orient it. We need a body of knowledge mental scaffoldingin which to integ rate it, so that we can gi ve it meaning, remember and use it later . Psychologists have de monstrated that the ability to learn something new depends on an ability to accommodate the new thing to the already known. In other words, the more one knows, the easier it is to learn something new. When we dont have a context into which to fit a new fact or concept, we can neither understand nor remember it. (1999a, p. 36)
Fissures in Standards Formulation 41 Where she differs from constructivists is in what she considers a framework, how it is acquired, and how it is used. Her framework is what she ca lls content, facts and principles which must be learned before they can be ap plied in projects or learning. She argues that this content knowledge is not acquired through projects, which run the risk of leaving stud ents with gaps in the framework and unable to work effectively wi th the concepts that onl y structured, contentbased instruction can provide (p. 2). Also, the interdisciplinary nature of projects leaves students with a lack of coherent knowledge with in subjects, unable to think effectively within them. Far from teaching students to learn how to learn, the experi ential approach has the following deleterious results: Its spotty, catch-as-catch -can approach leaves students with huge gaps in their knowledge base, giving them little mental sca ffolding to build on in the future. Its blurring of traditional subje ct matter boundaries ensures that studentsfar from integrating disciplinesnever learn the basic elements of important domains of k nowledge. The result is a loss of intellectual coherence. Its disparagement of memorization, and of related drill and practice, prevent children from developing lower-order skills to the point of automaticity. (p. 38) She also argues that experiential learning creates the risk th at children will l earn something quite different than th e teacher intended. The remembered understandin g that children take from discovery learning is likely to be highly variable and uncertain (p. 38). In this analysis, what she claimed to be a core of substantive knowledge is assumed to be an external, preexisting phenomenon that students acquire prior to th inking critically about that phenomenon, in contrast to a constructivist notion of knowledge as formulated through mutual social interaction. She also notes that need for collective, bounded curriculum in which disciplinary boundaries are distinct (Bernstein, 2000). Finally, her concern that students will learn something quite different from what a teacher intends th em to learn reifies a transmission model of instruction. A key to what she intends by valued disciplinary knowledge can be gleaned by looking at her counter-examples to the Profile. In contrast to the Profiles emphasis on thinking like scientists she argues for the need to be able to identify the nine planets in the solar system (2002, p. 38). She complains that the Profile wants students to think historically, but does not emphasize (or even name) the great figures and events of the past. Nor do they suggest that some historical epochs (classical Greece, the Renaissance, the Reformation) ar e more worthy of study than others. Instead, students look at the biases of historians and are in vited to construct their own version of history (p. 44). The discourse of academic knowledge that Ke rsten appropriates also negates the value of curriculum that attends to variations in literacy practices associated with different local or regional cultures. Her critique reflects an attempt to decont extualize the uses and application of knowledge in different contexts, an approach reflected in stan dardized, scripted instruction found in for-profit schooling programs such as Success for All and Roots and Wings. In his analysis of these scripted programs, Eric Weiner (2003) argues that standardization attempts to rationalize the homogenization of knowledge and skills, in part, by decontextualizing knowledge, individualizing literacy and language development, and limiting teachers input and influence over pedagogy and curriculum development (p. 49).
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 42 Another internal Minnesota group, a coalition of conservative parents and educators, the Maple River Education Coalition (later known as EdWatch), engaged in lobby ing efforts with state legislators, evoking a discourse of populism to argu e for more local control over public education and against attempts by the state as big gove rnment to impose the Profile onto schools. They particularly objected to the Profiles co nstructivist bent (Quist, 2005). After analyzing the Maple River documents critiquing the Profile and promoting the Northstar Standards (see below), it is clear while th eir view of academic excellence is stated vaguely, it is consistent with a neoconservative mode l of mastery of a bounded body of disciplinary knowledge and skills exemplified in Advanced Pl acement and International Baccalaureate programs, which they were concerned with pro tecting from incursions from Profile requirements. The Profile is critiqued because projects focus on attitudes, values and beliefs of students, rather than on transmitting knowledge (Maple River Education Coalition, 2002, 7). Aca demics is contrasted with minimum competencies, attitudes, values, and beliefs ( 10). Allen Quist, a conservative politician and active member of the Coalition, was critical of the use of performance assessments as opposed to testing: Why require assessments instead of te sts? The reason is because the word assessments is broader an d more ambiguous than tests and includes student opinion as well as subjective rating-sca les designed to me asure behavior and values. The core meaning of assess is to assign a value to so mething. Tests, in contrast, are more clearly defined obje ctive instruments which are especially useful for measuring academ ic knowledge and skills. Th e new jargon is totally consistent with the goal of shaping st udent behavior as opposed to improving academic knowledge. (Quist 2005, p. 3) In addition to their disapproval of construc tivist philosophy and tasks, the Maple River Education Coalition was highly critical of what they saw as a federal mo ve to replace academics with a vocational focus: Students are now taught entry-level j ob skills and given the time to demonstrate their proficiency by working various jobs during the school day. For instance, Eden Prairie students discover their future by learning to oper ate a cash register, while a Saint Paul student gains experien ce in media arts in the Walgreens photo department. (Map le River Education Co alition, 2002, p. 2) The result of this vocational focus was perceived to be limiting educat ional options for young people still trying to fi gure out what they want to do. MRC advised pare nts that it was against Minnesota state law to put students in any voca tional track against their parents wishes, and advocated resistance to what they saw as the vocational arm of the Profile (Maple River Education Coalition, 2002). An analysis by Mitchell Pearlstein (2000) of th e Center for the American Experiment framed the Minnesota political landscape as one of fos tering experimentation in education through choice programs, voucher programs, and charter school s in opposition to the cartel of teacher professional organizations, the Minnesota Educati on Association and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers, which eventually merged to form Education Minnesota. He notes that because Minnesotans take local control in education seri ously, the imposition of the Profile violates the notion of local control in that even though th e state argued that they were not imposing the performance packages onto districts, that local districts did not have the ability or preference to develop their own lessons and activities. He also noted that some elements of business community who did favor teaching students how to engage in problem-solving promoted in the Profile, raised questions about the Profile.
Fissures in Standards Formulation 43 This conservative critique valuing local c ontrol differs from the Fordham and Achieve critiques, which in some cases are critical of the lack of state-wide uniformity given states commitments to local control. In their 1998 criti que of state standards (F inn, Petrilli, & Vanourek, 1998), a Fordham report noted that states appeal for the need for local control is an abdication of responsibility. Instea d of running with the standards ball, these states chose to punt. One sees ev idence of this reasoning in standards documents themselves and in remarks by state officials. For example, in an attempt to explain why his state did poorly on vari ous evaluations, a New Jersey official was quoted in the media as sa ying, When they [t he AFT and Fordham reports] accuse our standard s of lacking specificity an d measurability, we say, Thats right, we know that. They lack specificity because they werent designed to be specific. We are a local control state. (p. 6) This commitment to local control was particularly strong among the Maple River Education Coalition constituents. Their public ations repeatedly reveal their suspicion of standards imposed from above: The highest academic standards ever atta ined in practice in the history of Minnesota occurred without fe deral or state mandates or standards. Let us not fear true local contro l. This is the most viable avenue to academic excellence. To do otherwise will continue to lead us away from freedom. (Maple River Education Coalition, 2002, p. 3) However, knowing that the state wo uld develop standards in accordance with federal law, and in their interest in getting rid of the Profile, the MRC assisted in the drafting of the Northstar Standards (NSS), which were proposed by an independent group as an alternative in 2002. In comparison with either the Profile or the standa rds that were eventually adopted by the state, the NSS are positively skeletal, reflecting their fram ers interest in preserving the local autonomy of school districts. For example, here are the high scho ol literature standards, in their entirety: Section 16: Subd. 2. [LITERATURE.] A st udent should be able to demonstrate the ability to interpret and evaluate complex works of famous American and World literature, including works of prose, poetry, and theater, by: describing the elements of literature for intent, form, and context to histor ical, cultural, and social background of selected works; and demonstrating the ability to communicate an informed interpretation of any selection of literary works. (Minnesota House of Representatives, 2000) They do indicate the reading of literature and want certain things to be done with it, but they leave the methods and the texts to local policy-makers. However, under the general NSS provisions, each course must be assessed using criterionreferenced tests, and each student must be tested annually using a nationally-normed test. This indicates a tension between local and state acco untability, and a neoconservative reliance on putatively objective measures of learning. The North Star Standards were not only not adopted by the Minnesota state legislature, but an analysis of th e language arts standards finally put in place does not even show a trace of their influence. Thus, while neoconservative critiques of the Profile focused primarily on the lack of specific content k nowledge and a loss of adult authority, there was some tension between professional groups that as serted the need for statewide content standards and tests, and parent and community groups that were wary of top-down attempts to impose standards onto schools.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 44 The Creation of New Minnesota English Language Arts Standards As a result of this multi-pronged attack on the Profile, and with the election of a Republican governor who vowed to do away with it, in March of 2003 the Republican majority of the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to repeal the Prof ile. They also voted to substitute a new set of content-based standards that conformed to the mandate of the No Child Left Behind Law in specifying facts and concepts students needed to k now at each grade level. Neoliberals in the state legislature fought to retain the Pr ofile by creating a new version of the Profile. But, while this new version passed in the State Senate, it did not pass the State House of Representatives. The Minnesota English language arts standa rds were created by a group of volunteers selected by Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Yecke, well-known nationally for her previous experience developing Virginias detailed an d prescriptive content standards, often cited as model standards by neoconservatives. Her volunteer s, consisting of classroom teachers, parents, school board members, college professors and b usiness leaders, met to devise language arts standards in February, 2003. They then presented these standards at public hearings, and, based on feedback, reduced the number of language arts st andards from 635 to 447, as well as adding media literacy standards. The Maple River Education Coalition now supported the state standards. While this still meant having to cede some local control, the new standards restored disciplinary divisions, objective testing linked to national norms, and returned the fo cus from vocational prep to academic content. Emphasis was also placed on writing the standard s using language that was less difficult to understand and that did not imply a particular teaching method. Positioning and Re-positioning Teachers Many members of the standards-writing board consisted of parents who applied their nostalgic beliefs as to what constituted appropria te English language arts instruction based on their own prior schooling experience, a discounting of tea chers knowledge of more current instructional methods that reflects a discourse of de-professi onalization. They were also opposed to what they perceived to be a moral relativism associated wi th constructivist approaches and multicultural education. During the development of the new standards, teachers had little voice in drafting the standards. Within the larger public relations debate, teachers had often been positioned as presumably in support of content-based standards. An interactional positioning analysis (Chouliarki & Fairclough, 1999) of statements and articles by Commissioner Y ecke and Katherine Kersten show that when mounting their opposition to the Prof ile, teachers were positioned as victims of the Profile as an ill-conceived, bureaucratic system In an early newspaper interview (Johnson, 2003), Yecke explicitly aligned herself with teachers. Al though the interviewer initially addressed her as a former activist parent who went on to obtain her Ph.D., Yecke identified herself in her answer as one of the first teachers to serve on the Virginia State Board of Education (p. 6AA). When asked whether or not the Profile was a huge disaster, she only mentioned educators reactions to it and the impact on teachers: The Profile was far too prescr iptive and the administration and paperwork for teachers too excessive. If were going to think of teachers as professionals, we cant treat them like bookkeepers (Johnson, 2003, p. 6AA). In Kerstens 2002 article, she portrayed the argument against the Profile in common-sense terms as something that had already been decide d, and assumed agreement on the part of her readers. As does Yecke, she positions teachers as victims of the Profile: teachers are burdened by
Fissures in Standards Formulation 45 administrative paperwork and they fear that their stud ents arent learning. A closer look at the role teachers play in her account show that she largely a ffords them roles as actors rather than goals of a process (Halliday, 1994; Martin et al, 1997): she me ntions teachers 32 times, and 75% of the time they are actors in the clause. When they are being acted upon, it is usually by the Profile or the standards that are being developed (5 out of 8 time s): as is often the case in standards literature, standards take an active role in the grammar. However, even in the clauses where the teacher takes an active role, it is usually to complain about the Profile, the main role she affords them: many teachers expressed fear... (p. 46), Teachers were al so dismayed by the loss of content (p. 48), and teachers also complained bitterly... (p. 46). Only four times in the entire article are they portrayed as acting as teachers: We had to cut out units... (p. 48), students and teachers worked after school to complete... (p. 48), and teachers theor etically can now design their own performance assessments without state intervention (p. 47). While complaining teachers may have been seized upon as allies in the attack on the Profile, this does not mean that they had a place at the table as respected practitioners. While there were some teachers on Yeckes volunteer task forces to create the new standard s, these teachers were often hand-picked as representing views consisten t with that of the Commissioner; teachers were also in the minority on these task forces. Ho wever, when teachers and their professional organization challenged these new standards, thes e challenges were described as attempts by teachers to perpetuate the status quo and as resi stance to change (i.e., Johnson, 2003; Draper & Lonetree, 2003). In newspaper reports and on radio talk-shows, Commissioner Yecke framed teachers as opposed to change, th ereby positioning herself as a proponent of change, assumed to be innovation. Thus, while Yecke and others were initia lly framing teachers as victims of the Profile, in defending the need for change through implementing the content standards, they then positioned schools, teachers, teacher unions, and teacher educators as a large, intransigent, bureaucratic structure that was not accountable to the public as taxpayers supporting the system, and opposed to any change that threatened their status. The New Standards The Minnesota legislature approved the new standards for implementation in 20032004.3 The new English language arts standards repres ented extensive compromise between the more content-based and traditionally phonics-based ve rsion proposed by Commissioner Yeckes parent groups and alternative, more progressive stan dards developed by the state senate and local educators. Analysis of the high school literature standard s gives some indication of the effect of these compromises among disparate groups. The neoconserv ative preference for rigor, apolitical analysis, and an emphasis on our literary heritage is strongly represented in the standards. Rigorous, apolitical analysis is guaranteed by the very strong presence of New Critical/formalist analysis: seven of the fourteen literature standards detail such analysis of texts; three others include the directive analyze Examples include I. D. 4. Evaluate the impact of an authors decisions regarding word choice, point of view, style, and literary elements and I. D. 11. Analyze classic and contemporary poems for poetic devices. The focus on the Western literary heritage is stated in the first three standards, which detail that the activity in which students are engaged is to Read, analyze, and evaluate traditional, classical, 3 See the Minnesota Department of Education website, http://education.state.mn.us/mde/Acad emic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 46 and contemporary works of literary merit from Ame rican literature (Literature Standard I. D. 1), British literature (I. D. 2), and from civilizati ons and countries around the world (I. D. 3). The theme of heritage, requiring the preservation of the school literary canon, is provided both by the mentions of traditional and classical and also the modifier literary merit In addition, standard I. D. 11 directs, Demonstrate how literary works reflect the historical contexts that shaped them. However, there is no reference to literature as a re flection of its cultural or social background, as there was in the Profile. The 2005 Fordham Foundation review of the new Minnesota content-based standards rewarded the new effort with a more positive re view than their previous F grade given to the Profile: a grade of B, with high ratings for dis ciplinary coverage and quality (Stotsky, 2005, p. 48). The new standards were praised as clear, me asurable, and of increasing difficulty over the grades. They are grouped in categories that reflect c oherent bodies of research: writing, reading and literature (with informational and functional readin g separated from literary reading), and speaking, listening, and viewing ( p. 48). The fact that study of American literature is mentioned at almost every grade level, as is study of a variety of genres and traditional, classical, and contemporary works of literary merit was a plus (p. 48). However, they wished that the 912 standards had been more specific in stating which works were recommended, and suggested that the state develop selective lists of authors and/or titles of culturally and hist orically significant literary and non-literary works to accompany each grade level (p. 49), a reflection of the need to teach the content of specific literary texts. They did not seem to be bothered by the juxtaposition of the theoretically incompatible historical and New Critical standards, with no e ffort made to resolve the incoherence (Applebee, 1993; Marshall, Smagorinsky, & Smith, 1995). The influence of neoliberal values appeared in the approach to developing the standards and assessment. Great respect was shown for professional expertise (of the right sort) and accountability. A letter on the EdWatch website from a parent wh o was a member of the Minnesota Academic Standards Committee drafting English language arts standards attempted to answer complaints that the Committee standards were hast ily prepared and lack appropria te input by qualified educators as well as rumors that the standards were merely a copy of those Commissioner Yecke had overseen in Virginia. He contended that, while the committee had looked at a variety of documents, including highly-ranked standards from other states, the standards were a new document. In addition, they took into account recommendations from Mi nnesota teachers and other professionals. The standards could also be implemented within the usual curriculum development process for each particular district, so would require no additional funding (Winters, 2003). Winterss defense responded to charges th at the Committee did not include input from qualified educators. It borrowed a discourse of pr ofessionalism and bureaucratic process that was usually missing from the EdWatch (formerly the Maple River Education Coalition), materials, usually marked by a common-sense approach to simplifying complex issues and a rejection of jargon. While pointing out that the Committee drew on standards from highly ranked states, he did not describe the basis for this ranking (although it may be presumed that he refers to the Fordham Foundation rankings based on neoconservative criter ia). This focus on ranking reflects a need to appeal to quantitative factors; he made sure to mention that the new standards were measurable, as well. In addition to the strong neoconservative flavor of these standards and the neoliberal focus on accountability, there were a few anomalous standard s that trace the influence of other traditions in English studies. Literature standards I. D. 14 and 15, in their directives to respond to various aspects of literature (for personal enjoyment in st andard 15), seems closely tied to a philosophy of reader response. In addition, Standard I. D. 7, Evaluate a literary selection from several critical perspectives and Standard I. D. 12, Synthesize ideas and make thematic connections among
Fissures in Standards Formulation 47 literary texts, public discourse, media and other disc iplines invite a conception of the literary text as a multi-faceted object that can be viewed from a va riety of perspectives. While these standards were apparently advocated for by some on the committ ee, because they may not lend themselves to traditional content tests currently under developm ent, they may be taken less seriously than those standards involving knowledge of American and Brit ish authors. They only serve to add to the lack of coherence already evident in this compromise document. In summary, the development of these two competing sets of standards reflect the influence of neoliberal and neoconservative discourses shaping standards development in Minnesota. The neoliberal discourse of acquiring problem-solving, hands-on skills for successful participation in the workplace was used to justify implementation of th e Profile of Learning. Cr itiques of the Profile from a neoconservative perspective led to its demise and the creation of new content-based standards, although with some reservations by particular groups of conservatives about the imposition of any set of standards. These new c ontent-based standards reflected the influence of both neoconservative and neoliberal discours es, creating the potential for tensions and contradictions between a push towards teaching content as specified in the standards and the value associated with flexibility, given the need for local control of schooling. Summary and Implications The process of standards formulation that occurred in Wisconsin and Minnesota reflects the conflicts that occur in much of the political aren a in the United States (Frank, 2004; Lakoff, 2002), conflicts reflecting a larger divide between a cons ervative values orientation and a business and economic orientation towards society. The neoconservative strict father discourse voiced by Governor Thompson in Wisconsin, and by critics of Minnesotas Profile of Learning, framed standards using political discourses associated with schooling and social values in ways that helped gain their adoption. This was accomplished through an appeal to hold schools accountable for teaching traditional subject-matter content associated with such subjects as British and American literature and grammar, content that could be easily tested using standardized measures: for example, through use of multiple-choice test items on knowle dge of grammar. This content focus was also explicitly framed in opposition to teaching multicul tural texts, problem-solving, and critical thinking assumed to lead to challenging absolutist religious and cultural beliefs valued by conservatives. At the same time, the neoliberal discourse vo iced by Superintendent Benson in Wisconsin and some of the Profile of Learning advocates in Minnesota stressed the importance of preparing students to participate in a global economy that requires a focus on diversity and problem-solving, but not necessarily critical thinking. While these competing rationales for standards resonated differently with different constituencies, the neo-conservative focus on acquiring subject-matter knowledge may have been more appealing to th e public based on their familiar recollections of schooling as primarily knowledge acquisition and testing. Both perspectives promote standards as provid ing a sense of certainty about and control over what is taught in schools. In both Wi sconsin and Minnesota, teachers and taxpayers were promised that the new standards would provide clar ity and rigor supposedly missing in pre-existing district curricula. Both neoliberal discourses, with their insistence on testable outputs, and neoconservative discourses, with their focus on the need to spell out traditional content, promised clear direction for teachers and students. Howev er, the need to compromise on methods and ideology resulted in Minnesota standards that wer e less coherent in their philosophy and direction than the Profile for Learning had been, and Wisc onsin standards that were fuzzier in spelling out what students should know and be able to do than earlier drafts formulated by educators. Ambiguity
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 48 in standards is not necessarily an evil, if the pur pose is to provide professionals with the leeway to make decisions on what is best for their studen ts. However, the Minnesota and Wisconsin standards also constrain teachers by highlighting the status qu o in literature instruction and leaving little room for innovation. Language arts standards thus conform to neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies but are not informed by recent research in literacy in general (Allington & Woodside-Jiron, 1999; Yatvin, Weaver & Garan, 2003) or current pedagogical theo ry in teaching English language arts supporting a literacy as practice (Guerra, 1998) perspective. Fo r example, New Criticism, the dominant form of literary study in universities in the mid-20th-century, assumed that meanings are located in the text and that readers social and cultural schema are i rrelevant to constructing these meanings. With the rise of alternative literary critical perspectivesfemi nist criticism, cultural studies, poststructuralist analysis, etc., this New Critical approach was criticized and largely abandoned by universities for a broader array of critical tools, but still lingers in high school classrooms (Applebee, 1993). Thus, within the larger field of English, a more current rigorous approach to teaching literature embraces the uses and applications of alternative critical perspectives. However, the Minnesota and Wisconsin standards still adopt a New Critical approach by fo cusing on the ability to identify examples of literary forms, tasks lending themselves readily to testing with standardized measures, while making little room for the applicat ion of alternative literar y critical approaches, practices that are more difficult to measure with standardized instruments. Employing what the field considers to be an outmoded approach casts doubt on claims that these standards are more rigorous than more recent alternatives. While anyone who has taken an AP test knows that New Criticism can be rigorous and ch allenging, so is a cultural studies approach calling on a variety of sources to tie literature to it s cultural, social, and historical context (CareyWebb, 2001; Gere & Shaheen, 2001), and so is appl ying critical theory to literary texts (Appleman, 2000; Graff, 1992, Tyson, 1999). Moreover, mode ls of teaching literature that promote student engagement in the process (Beach, Appleman, Hy nds, & Wilhelm, 2006; Beach & Myers, 2001) are also missing, in spite of teachers recognition of their power in promoting effort and achievement. Those who study and work with adolescents, and w ho are aware of how the changing world outside of the classroom impacts the increasingly diverse mix of students inside it, are largely excluded from writing standards or setting policy. Standards as Defining Litera cy as Institution and the Positioning of Teachers The prevalence of neo-conservative and neo-liber al discourses in the final drafts of these standards illustrates what Basil Bernstein (2000) de scribes as the domination of those whose primary concern is pedagogy and schooling by business leader s and politicians with ideological and financial interests. Policy makers embracing both perspective s assume that they can define literacy curriculum standards in definitive, bounded ways according to their versions of the role of schooling as socializing students to acquire the values of soci al conservatism or the workplace, conceptions of literacy learning often at odds with educator s conceptions. As Pennington (2007) notes, policy makers frame literacy as literacy as institution that can be codified and measured--defined by Guerra (1998) as a body of information that any member of our society must know and be able to manipulate... the view that studen ts have to operate within existing institutional constr aints in order to demonstrat e their literacy survives as a cornerstone [L]earners have to be prov ided with the necessa ry scaffolding and
Fissures in Standards Formulation 49 are judged on their ability to meet certain institutional expectations. (Guerra, 1998, quoted in Pennington, 2007, p. 466) This conception of literacy as institution was evident in the Mi nnesota and Wisconsin standards focus on acquiring information about parts of spee ch or authors. In contrast, educators are more likely to adopt a conception of what Guerra defi nes as literacy as practice, a socially constructed and highly contex tualized activity. Literacy is no longer considered a singular, monolithic, or univ ersal entity; instead scholars who take a practice-oriented perspective contend that there are many literacies in any society serving multiple and culturally specific purposes. The goal, from this perspective, is not to master a particular form of literacy, but to develop ones ability to engage in a variety of social practices th at require us to operate in a plethora of settings and genres to fulfill different ne eds and goals. (Guerra, 1998, quoted in Pennington, 2007, p. 466) This conception of literacy ch allenges the top-down, homogene ous framing of standards as ignoring literacy practices studen ts from different cultural contexts bring to schools. As we argued in our introduction, standards can function to foster reflection on what students should be learning in English classe s without dictating specific curriculum content, a function more in line with a literacy as practice conception. However, policy-makers that imposed content standards in Wisconsin and Minnesota saw their function as specifying content leading to testing to make both teachers and students more a ccountable to teaching and learning English in a certain manner. While neoliberal discourses make passing refe rence to engaging teachers as partners in developing standards related to the first function, the actual agenda in Minnesota and Wisconsin was the latter function. The operation of these two fu nctions simultaneously serves to position teachers in contradictory ways: you can be part of the stan dards-construction process, but you need to accept our standards. The process of creating the fina l standards as a compromise between the Modern Red Schoolhouse and DPI standards in Wisconsin was largely accomplished by politicians and bureaucrats, positioning teachers merely as needin g to be made more accountable for improving test scores as a measure of the quality of their instruction. In Minnesota, teachers voices were honored when attacking the Profile, but Commissioner Yecke portrayed them as obstructi onists when they protested the imposition of content standards. In both cases, Minnesota teachers situations and ex periences were given short shrift: in the case of the Profile by disciplinary experts who overlooked ti me constraints and lack of training, and in the case of the academic standards by non-educators whose nostalgia and ideology shaped standards teachers were responsible for implementing regardless of pedagogical orientation. Once standards are in place, the tensions between these competing discourses are only the beginning of tensions involved with standards im plementation. Teachers also face tensions with administrators who are more likely to need to sub scribe to standards-based accountability dictates, and with perspectives more in line with Guerras (1998) literacy as institution. For example, one study found that 80% of Florida teachers indicated that they were critical of testing as opposed to 50% of administrators; 46% cited negative effects of testing compared with 27% of administrators; teachers indicated that having to prepare students for the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test narrowed the focus of their instruction; administrato rs indicated that having test results provided them with information related to student placemen t and teacher performance (Jones & Egley, 2006). Teachers, students, and parents are also faced with other contradictions and inconsistencies that plague this system of standards and accoun tability. There are the contradictions between state standards and local districts efforts to lower their assessment criteria so that their district can be perceived as meeting these standards (McNeil, 2000 ; Sandholtz, Ogawa, & Scribner, 2004), as well as
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 50 contradictions between the standards themselves an d the tests employed to assess those standards. An analysis by the American Federation of Teache rs found that half of the 800 high-stakes tests employed in states to determined meeting th e NCLB mandates are inconsistent with states standards (Keller, 2006). And, there are the tensions between the need to achieve standards versus the resources available to support schools in achieving those stan dards (McNeil, 2000). Analysis of the implied need for technology, books, and other resources n ecessary for the implementation of the California English standards found that California law did not guarantee that resources would be made available to support those standards (Koski & Weis, 2004). Similarly, while a 2005 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll indicated that the public is not concerned with specific issues of standards formulation, the public has strong concerns abou t lack of school funding, which remained the top problem for the six years up to the 2005 poll (R ose & Gallup, 2005). The public also shares concerns with teachers over testing, with 54% pe rceiving teaching to the test as a negative consequence of testing and 68% positing that a sing le test in English or math does not provide a valid measure of whether a school needs improvement. All of this suggests that educators are operating in a climate rife with contradictory agendas constituted by conflicting discourses and perspecti ves. The promise of standards, that they would provide a clear roadmap to success for students and teachers and reflective conversations about the curriculum, has not resulted in coherent direction or a clear definition of the larger purposes for schooling in America. This suggests the need for al ternative discourses to frame education in ways that challenge the dominance of neoliberal and neoconservative discourses imposed by forces outside the teaching profession.
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Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 62 About the Author Samantha Caughlan Michigan State University Richard Beach University of Minnesota Email: email@example.com Samantha Caughlan is an assistant professor of En glish education at Michigan State University. Her research interests include English teachers cultural models of their discipline, facilitating teachers development of dialogic cl assroom discourse practices, and the effect of state and local policy decisi ons on classroom practice. Richard Beach is Professor of English Education at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of 17 books including A Teachers Intr oduction to Reader Response Theories (1993) and co-author of Inquiry-based English Instructi on: Engaging Students in Life and Literature (2001), Teaching Literature to Adolescents (2006), Teachingmedialiteracy.com: A Guide to Webbased Links and Activities (2007), and High School Students Compe ting Social Worlds: Negotiating Identities and Allegiances through Responding to Multicultural Literature (2007). He conducts research on response to literature and the media.
Fissures in Standards Formulation 63 EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES http://epaa.asu.edu Editor: Sherman Dorn, University of South Florida Production Assistant: Chris Murre ll, Arizona State University General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Sherman Dorn, firstname.lastname@example.org. Editorial Board Noga Admon Jessica Allen Cheryl Aman Mi chael W. Apple David C. Berliner Damian Betebenner Robert Bickel Robert Bifulco Anne Black Henry Braun Nick Burbules Marisa Cannata Casey Cobb Arnold Danzig Linda Darling-Hammond Chad dEntremont John Diamond Amy Garrett Dikkers Tara Donohue Gunapa la Edirisooriya Camille Farrington Gustavo Fischman Chris Frey Richard Garlikov Misty Ginicola Gene V Glass Harvey Goldstein Jake Gross Hee Kyung Hong Aimee Howley Craig B. Howley Jaekyung Lee Benjamin Levin Jennifer Lloyd Sarah Lubienski Susan Maller Les McLean Roslyn Arlin Mickelson Heinrich Mintrop Shereeza Mohammed Michele Moses Sharon L. Nichols Sean Reardon A.G. Rud Lorrie Shepard Ben Superfine Cally Waite John Weathers Kevin Welner Ed Wiley Terrence G. Wiley Kyo Yamashiro Stuart Yeh
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 15 No. 18 64 EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES http://epaa.asu.edu New Scholar Board English language articles 2007-2009 Wendy Chi Corinna Crane Jenny DeMonte Craig Esposito Timothy Ford Samara Foster Melissa L. Freeman Kimberly Howard Nils Kauffman Felicia Sanders Kenzo Sung Tina Trujillo Larisa Warhol
Fissures in Standards Formulation 65 A rchivos A nalticos de P olticas E ducativas http://epaa.asu.edu Editores Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State University Pablo Gentili Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro Asistentes editoriales: Rafael O. Serrano (ASU) & Lucia Terra (UBC) Hugo Aboites UAM-Xochimilco, Mxico Armando Alcnt ara Santuario CESU, Mxico Claudio Almonacid Avila UMCE, Chile Dalila Andrad e de Oliveira UFMG, Brasil Alejandra Birgin FLACSO-UBA, Argentina Sigfredo Chiroque IPP, Per Mariano Fernndez Enguita Universidad de Salamanca. Espaa Gaudncio Frigotto UERJ, Brasil Roberto Leher UFRJ, Brasil Nilma Lino Gomes UFMG, Brasil Pia Lindquist Wong CSUS, USA Mara Loreto Egaa PIIE, Chile Alma Maldonado University of Arizona, USA Jos Felipe Martnez Fernndez UCLA, USA Imanol Ordorika IIE-UNAM, Mxico Vanilda Paiva UERJ, Brasil Miguel A. Pereyra Universidad de Granada, Espaa Mnica Pini UNSAM, Argentina Romualdo Portella de Oliveira Universidade de So Paulo, Brasil Paula Razquin UNESCO, Francia Jos Ignacio Rivas Flores Universidad de Mlaga, Espaa Diana Rhoten SSRC, USA Jos Gimeno Sacristn Universidad de Valencia, Espaa Daniel Schugurensky UT-OISE Canad Susan Street CIESAS Occidente,Mxico Nelly P. Stromquist USC, USA Daniel Surez LPP-UBA, Argentina Antonio Teodoro Universidade Lusfona, Lisboa Jurjo Torres Santom Universidad de la Corua, Espaa Llian do Valle UERJ, Brasil
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