Introducing NCLE’s First Centers for Literacy Education
It is with great honor that I congratulate the Arkansas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts Collaborative Inquiry Team (ACTELA CIT) and Merrill F. West High School's action research team of history teachers for being the first to achieve Center for Literacy Education (CLE) status. Participation in collaborative inquiry requires a willingness to try out new things and to learn from the process. However, being the first to work through this process required a level of faith and a willingness to take risks that signal a particularly special level of commitment.
For these groups, being the first meant not having any examples to observe before taking action. Being first meant trusting that recognition and support would be provided as promised, not knowing what those rewards might be because no other groups had walked this path. It meant a willingness to ask questions and to pilot procedures even as they were still being developed. Many thanks to Anne DiPardo for her apt analogy to JFK’s words about sending a man to the moon:
. . . doing such things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . . because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.”
The leadership team of the Arkansas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (ACTELA CIT) was the first group to achieve CLE status. They noticed a prevalence of the one-size-fits-all model of professional learning and curriculum acquisition as the state began transitioning to Common Core State Standards implementation. The team believed that their members needed to be aware of alternative professional learning models.
With this in mind, this leadership team selected their own professional inquiry that they will work through within the Literacy in Learning Exchange—providing a model for their membership to consider for themselves in their own school contexts if they so choose. In the group’s blog entry describing the catalyst for their work on the Exchange, Dixie Keyes wrote, “This is all quite difficult work . . . but what rewarding work isn't hard?”
Keep an eye on this team as they begin working through an inquiry plan focused on leadership and professional support.
The second CLE has been documenting their professional learning experiences on the Literacy in Learning Exchange since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. The WHS T-BAR Grant team is comprised of history teachers from Merrill F. West High School in California. Having received a Teacher Based Reform grant from California State University at Chico, they are entering their second year of collaborative inquiry.
Last year they focused on reading skills specific to the history classroom. This year, they want to know what makes writing in the history field unique, and how to better teach these writing concepts in their classrooms. By following their work, you will be able read about the activities leading them to new discoveries about patterns in reading, writing, and argument. (After reading their recent blog about a workshop focused on finding the argument in a text, I couldn't help but test the described strategy on texts I found around me.)
Many groups have joined the NCLE network because they believe that professional learning through collaboration and inquiry has a tremendous impact on student learning. Some have witnessed this powerful outcome firsthand and others are craving the opportunity but do not yet have access to the structures necessary to engage fully in these types of learning activities.
Regardless of where a collaborative group falls on a continuum of experiences and contexts, becoming a Center for Literacy Education is one way of engaging more fully with the NCLE network. This isn’t a prize for being the best at literacy teaching and learning or the best at collaboration and inquiry. Being a CLE is about recognition for the process rather than the product, understanding that we always have room to get better at what we do.
To see what the CLEs and other groups are working on, hit the “follow” button on the group homepages. If you've been part of an online group, you know that silence in online spaces can sometimes be disheartening. Please let these pioneering groups know that you are paying attention by adding your own reflections, questions, and words of encouragement about the important work that they are choosing to share. Also, if you haven’t done so already, connect your own professional learning team to the NCLE network.