Co -constructing a nurturing and culturally relevant academic environment for struggling readers: (Dis)locating crisis and risk through strategic alignment
Current educational reform represented by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) symbolizes the summit of neoliberal reforms initiated more than three decades ago with the A Nation At Risk report (ANAR). The so called progressive plea of 'leaving no child behind' has brought poignant changes to US education in general providing an unprecedented impetus for new privatization schemes that disproportionably affect school districts serving large population of minority, low-income students in urban areas. This study provides a macro-micro framework for analyzing teachers' recontextualizations in the context of current reforms and demands.
At the macro level, the study analyzes focal intertextual thematic formations (Lemke, 1995) in two cornerstone educational texts, namely, the ANAR report and the NCLB act. Particular historical aspects related to of the assemble of relations (Gramsci, 1971) that overdetermined the production of these texts are also examined. The study then uses the insights gained from this analysis of what is called the "cultural-pedagogic reservoir" as an entry point into analyzing in detail the "individual-pedagogic repertoire" of an experienced middle-school teacher as intertextual thematic formations particular to the focal texts re-emerge and are recontextualized in the interactions constructed in an intervention program for mostly Latino struggling readers. More specifically, the study analyzes the linguistic organization, and pedagogic genre of an experienced teachers' academic recontextualization and how these are accomplished in interaction in underperforming schools intervened by America's Choice, the district's "turn around" private partner.
The specific Critical Discourse Analysis approach used draws purposely on analytical tools of Systemic Functional Linguistics theory and Genre theory (Halliday and Martin 1993; Martin, 2000; Martin and Rose 2003). This applied linguistic approach is complemented by the emancipatory agenda of critical ethnography and the overdeterminist class analysis of postmodern Marxism. Findings from linguistic analysis of policy texts reveal that the notions of risk, and crisis advanced by the ANAR report are taken into an unprecedented technocratic level in the No Child Left Behind Act that promote a new privatization (Burch, 2006) as the products and services of private companies are marketed not only as aligning to the law, but being "scientifically proven." The focal teacher working under this conditions was found to consistently use of a patterned and specific purposeful, goal oriented, and staged pedagogic genre organized through ideological principles that responded to a particular and context-bound way of alignment: "Strategic Alignment." Such a Strategic alignment represents an ideological framework that expands the frame of accountability to all stakeholders of the educational process, and not only to those most interested in promoting fidelity with standards and mandates. The teacher not only simultaneously and flexibly responded to standards and mandates represented by the "turn around" company (America's Choice), but also aligned to the needs, rights, and backgrounds of students, and to the thought collectives (Ramanathan, 2002) of the teaching profession. Even though the language of Strategic Alignment was found to be realized as a culturally relevant academic co-constructed linguistic space and a nurturing environment for Latino low-income struggling readers in an urban middle school and because it happens in the context of this new privatization scheme, such responsive pedagogical practices may well be co-opted and used as arguments to dismantle public schooling altogether.
Keywords: NCLB, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Latino Struggling Readers, Privatization, Responsive Pedagogy
Hispanic American studies;
0511: Economic theory
0727: Curriculum development
0737: Hispanic American studies