Exploring the Professional Books: Alliances, Reading as an Expert, and Community

Article excerpt

In this collection of books we present different view points on teaching and learning that may not appear, at first glance, to be relevant to the theme of the issue, yet we propose that a multicultural perspective is so broad that it encompasses much of what educators are talking about in the current environment of education. The theme: Taking charge of our instructional lives: Classrooms that work, relates to languages, ethnicity, varied political, social, cultural experiences, and even more varied experiences with literacy and literature. It relates to self-identity as individuals and as members of a community, culture, and country. All of these qualities are connected to the topics of the books included here in these reviews of the professional literature. The books explore multiple topics of policy and curriculum design, instructional practices, social justice, literary theory, and perhaps most importantly, ways to empower and engage young readers in the world of literacy. Smith and Wilhelm (2010), whose book is reviewed here, point out that the standards movement has dramatically changed teachers' lives and write, "We shouldn't lose the opportunity to use standards as allies to achieving more engaging and powerful instruction whenever we can" (p. 201). We hope that the books presented here would help teachers teach purposefully in doing something important with young readers.

Voltz, D.L., Sims, M.J., & Nelson, B. (2010). Connecting Teachers, Students and Standards: StrategtesJbr Success in Diverse andlnclttsive Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 159 pp. ISBN-13: 9781416610243

This book describes the convergence of standards-based reform, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic diversity. Teachers who have pondered the array of instructional approaches such as differentiated instruction, universal design for learning, sheltered instruction, and multicultural education at a time when state and national initiatives have left little time for professional growth will find this book both refreshing and rewarding.

Voltz and colleagues discuss the trends in education that have challenged teachers. Perhaps the single most influential trend is implementation of standardsbased reform. Although states have been developing standards-based learning, states are adopting the Common Core. The emphasis is on all students reaching the same goals and standards and the mission statement says the standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. Although the shift to the Common Core has been a challenge for educators the authors suggest that the Common Core holds promise, which include their serving as a catalyst to promote collaboration between teachers in general education, special education, ESL, bilingual education, raise the expectations for poor and minority students, and help educators share responsibility for the progress of all students.

The second trend is inclusion. The authors note that students with disabilities have traditionally been underreported in assessments and teachers and other professionals working with students with disabilities may have diminished expectations of their learning. The authors argue:

While standards-based reform calls for convergence in terms of learning outcomes, inclusion calls for divergence in terms of the strategies used in teaching. When inclusion is considered alongside standards-based reform . . . teachers are being called upon to produce greater similarity in learning outcomes despite greater diversity in student populations, (p. xiii)

Inclusion is not a cure-all for increasing academic achievement among students with disabilities. It requires team or co-teaching and a strong desire to address individual needs within the context of the regular class. The concept of inclusion holds promise for promoting access to curriculum and interaction between students with disabilities and peers, preparation of students for the real world. …