California's content standards in literary response and analysis: World-class or pseudo-literate?
In 1997, California introduced their content standards in Reading/Language Arts, touting them as “world-class” curricular statements whose implementation might require significant changes to the way schools operated. This dissertation attempts to take a multi-faceted look at California’s content standards in Literary Response and Analysis. The purpose of this analysis is to determine how effectively these standards represent best practices in literature instruction; how accurately the standards are assessed by California’s standardized tests; how (and to what degree) practicing teachers use the content standards in their daily instruction; and how California’s standards look when compared to those of another state. To that end, this dissertation consists of textual analyses of California’s content standards in Literary Response and Analysis; the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE); California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting assessment (STAR); and Michigan’s Grade Level Content Expectations (CE’s) in Literature and Culture, as well as an analysis of data from a series of interviews with practicing teachers. Evidence from the various textual analyses indicate that this set of twelve content standards is an unclear, terminology-heavy, and reductive version of literature study, and the way student performance of these standards is assessed on the CAHSEE and STAR is equally pseudo-literate and appears mainly to present only the façade of high standards for student success. These analyses align with the survey data collected from university English faculty, who do not see the standards representing the kind of knowledge about literature they would like their students to possess upon entering postsecondary education. The results of the teacher interviews further reinforce these findings. The interview subjects overwhelmingly admit that the content standards do not factor into their planning and instructional decisions, believing that their training and classroom experience provides them with a much clearer and more well-informed view of what their students actually need from an English/Language Arts education. Additionally, they see the content standards as being little more than a bureaucratic mandate, and that the standards are useful mainly as a way for administrators to feel they are holding teachers accountable.
0533: Secondary education
0535: Reading instruction
0727: Curriculum development