Intervening in the Common Core: Writing Studies in the Age of Accountability

Chapter three points to a recent model of public engagement in a debate that many consider of grave importance to the field of rhetoric and composition in order to showcase the nuanced and layered ways national and scholarly organizations can go public in debates about writing and writing instruction. Specifically, this chapter highlights the public discourse surrounding the intervention of National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) into the debate about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) developed in 2009 and released in 2010. I consult the final draft of the English Language Arts (ELA) standards themselves, composed by the cadre of Common Core authors, in addition to a collaborative response to an early draft of the ELA standards authored by an ad hoc committee of the NCTE. From this discourse I argue that the NCTE’s involvement the CCSSI was a form of interventional engagement, one that required a dynamic range of rhetorical savvy and collaboration. While many see the intervention as a failure (the NCTE’s suggestions were not incorporated in any meaningful way into the standards), I argue that the NCTE’s engagement in this debate on writing standards had unanticipated results, including a reinvigorated conversation in the field about assessment, accountability, and writing standards in secondary and postsecondary education. Rereading this event as an interventional engagement allows for a more thorough understanding of the risks, rewards, advantages, and disadvantages of intervening in education policy debates as a field.

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