Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

The Struggle for Teacher Professionalism in a Mandated Literacy Curriculum/préserver Son Professionnalisme Comme Enseignant Au Sein D'un Programme De Littératie Imposé

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

The Struggle for Teacher Professionalism in a Mandated Literacy Curriculum/préserver Son Professionnalisme Comme Enseignant Au Sein D'un Programme De Littératie Imposé

Article excerpt

It was March and students had been in school for nearly seven full months. As a school board consultant, I1 was visiting a grade three classroom to touch base with the teacher about a student's reading. Despite finding no increase in reading levels, the teacher was pleased with the student's progress. I was pleased to hear that the student was doing well in terms of attitude, participation, and work completion, but the fact that he had not progressed from the reading level at which he had been assessed seven months ago was disturbing. When I probed deeper into the situation, the teacher shared with me that the boy's level had not changed because he had not met the criteria for fluency as outlined in the relatively new reading program materials implemented by the school board. Fluency is one of four criteria by which students are to be assessed as readers, along with accuracy, vocabulary, and comprehension.

I was shocked by the restrictions, which the assessment procedures of the reading program seemed to impose, holding this child back from progressing to a higher reading level. The teacher, in accordance with the reading program manual, was evaluating the student based on the preset criteria for reading achievement. My concern was that this student had speech production issues, which inhibited his ability to speak fluently. Instead, he communicated orally in sentences which consisted of groups of two to three word phrases (ie., my dog... went outside.... and... and... he found a stick). The reading assessment required the child to read in a smooth and fluent manner, which he was physically incapable of doing. As a result, the teacher felt she was not able to record any change to his reading level in her evaluations, and therefore, it appeared there was no progress in his reading achievement. In this situation, although the child may have made significant advances in other aspects of his reading, the fluency requirement criterion represented a premise incompatible with the child's speech production issue.

For quite some time I struggled to understand the teacher's unwillingness to use her professional judgement regarding the child's reading progress. I understood that the teacher was following the criteria outlined in the reading program, but at the same time I could not help but wonder why her professional decision-making did not override or, at the very least, cause her to question such strict and literal adherence to the program.


For the past three decades, national and state / provincial governments have developed educational policy to standardize literacy curriculum with the stated aim of increasing student literacy achievement (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2008; Dudley-Marling, 2005; Fullan, 2009; Lingard, 2010, 2011; Office for Standards in Education, 2002; United States Department of Education, 2002; Wyse & Opfer, 2010; Wyse & Torrance, 2009). The implementation of this policy has impacted both the literacy instructional practices of teachers and students' classroom reading experiences in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, and Canadian provinces, all of whom have sought to develop a consistent approach to reading instruction that focuses on instructing and monitoring student reading achievement through the standardized testing of specific reading skills and strategies. While there are differences between the various governments' approaches to policy, there is similarity in standardization, both in terms of curriculum and instruction.

In Canada, there is no federal involvement in public kindergarten through grade 12 education as policies are developed and legislated provincially (Fullan, 2009). From 1990 through 2003, there were four common educational aims pursued by Canadian provinces: standardization; shifts in the locus and direction of responsibility for education; requirements for measurement and reporting of achievement; and, the emergence of consequences linked to accountability reports (Jaafar & Anderson, 2007). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.