Some Inksheds transcribed by Russ on

Session IVa:
Ethics in Curriculum and Pedagogy
"Picking Our Steps: Defining English in an Age of Megacuts"
Margaret Procter, University of Toronto

To design a test there would need to be agreed upon indicators of literacy -- I would hope that we are talking about critical literacy -- this, then, means individual responses, all individually evaluated by human beings -- no machine scoring. But . . . what about oral literacy skills?

I would have difficulty designing such a test even if this room were quiet. Since my colleagues are engaged in discussing the problem orally rather than writing, I am too distracted to think about this. The loss here is that when the medium is oral rather than written the level of abstraction remains fairly low. More importantly the voices of some of us are lost, either because we have no ideas or because we have less expertise & thus authority. Talking during inkshedding time is, for me, a waste of time and an undermining of a process that is intended to cast widely for a large range of voices. Too bad.

We [teachers] already know which students will perform well on such an exam & which students will have trouble with it. why waste money providing more proof of what we already know.

Was it H. L. Mencken who said for every complex problem there's a simple solution, and it's always wrong. Sounds like the situation for the Ontario literacy text. Maybe instead of trying to design the literacy test, we should instead design an ethics test to administer to any provincial cabinet that would support a literacy test. If the cabinet can't pass the ethics test, they can't go ahead and endorse a literacy test. A literacy test is designed to injure, to establish power [marginalium].

Ask to what use will the results be put: a license to drive? A license to parent? should a person who is deemed illiterate be allowed to vote? Sign cheques? [marginalium] Sign a will or an organ donor card? I would worry that an education "test" will be used for non-educational purposes, just like a social insurance number is used for purposes for which it was never intended.

Margaret, really. At this point, I'm thinking, as I sit here, about your original question, which was, why are we talking to this perverse government anyway? As you were talking, it struck me that if literacy is really something we all want so desperately, and if it's used with such ideological fervor, it must not be REAL. There must be no such thing . . . or many different things. I think literacy must mean, "doing what I value (whoever "I" is).

Another way to think about his (not very helpful, I know) is that the test will drive curriculum. so, what kind of curriculum do you want? Why not try to design a test that will produce it? In other words, abandon almost entirely the premise that "testing" can evaluate literacy. -- Marcy

In the real world (where decisions are made) can we afford not to participate? Probably not. But we can work to subvert the exercise. -- Tony

I think many of these questions can be answered, and that by reflecting carefully on these questions we can devise a test that will be fair to all students & teachers & give valuable feedback to the community at large & the educational community specifically [Is that a run-on sentence?] -- Theresa

Make a series of multiple-choice tests -- hey! what about having groups of students decide on the content and form of the literacy test. The dept. of education might come to classes and explain to studntns the rationale for the test & representatives might explain that increasing diversity feels threatening to the business elite, and what they want to test is conformity rather than literacy.

The design of the test must follow from the answer to the main question, "What is the purpose of this test?" and from the answers to all the more specific questions that follow. (1) "What is the definition of 'literacy' as applicable to this test?" (The answer to this quesieton must include what literacy levels aare expected for Grade 10 students) (2) "what will the results be used for?" (3) "Will the grading of this literacy test be forced into bellcurve distribution?" (4) "What will be the ramifications for Grade 10 students? What happens if they fail? Where will the failing level be set?" -- Nancy C.

When I was in Grade 10, we had to write a 5-paragraph essay, answer quesetions on usage & vocabulary, & correct grammatical errors. The lit exam asked questions about the Dickens novel and Shakespeare play of the year. -- Betty

Why do we (and schools, & universities & the public) continue to privilege print when we know that other ways of knowing and learning have a synergistic effect on each other? -- Lorri

Start with what is the purpose of the test. If the purpose is to compare individual teachers, schools, and divisions, borrow Manitoba's Grade 9 (senior 1) and Grade 12 (senior 4) provincial English tests and synthesize them. . . . Use nice words like "benchmarks" and "standards." Discern that most kids are average, poor kids are low and rich kids are high. Spend lots of money to find this out. -- Pat Sadowy

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