All posts by Lu Ann McNabb


About Lu Ann McNabb

Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb is the Policy & Alliances Associate for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Lu Ann has long been an advocate for teachers, students and education. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently said, "Education is the anvil upon which democracy is forged."


What Happened in Your State This March?

This past month, thirty policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

ESSA Implementation

Colorado: Stevi Quate shared Colorado Teachers Invited to Shape Policy.

Ohio: Robin Holland wrote Ohio’s ESSA Plan—Submission Delayed in Response to Public Feedback.

Vermont: Susanmarie Harrington shared Vermont Responds to the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Readers may want to visit ESSA Implementation in the States to see what your state is doing.

Higher Education

Massachusetts: Mya Poe shares UMass President Criticizes Federal Travel Ban in First State of the University Address.

Missouri: Jane Greer describes Missouri’s push to graduate college students on time in 15 to Finish in Missouri.

North Carolina: In NC College Students Have More Options, Terry McLean writes about dual enrollment, Reverse Transfer Options, High Achieving Tuition Scholarships, and NC Promise.

Ohio: Michelle Rankins describes recently passed legislation in Ohio Concealed Carry Law and College Campuses.

Tennessee: Melanie Hundley analyzes Tennessee and the edTPA.

Texas: In Texas Immigration Bill, Michael Gos describes the impact of the anti-sanctuary bill passed by the Texas Senate on state and local governments and campuses.

Funding and Budget

Connecticut: Stephen Ferruci discusses What Happens to Low-Income Students in CT?

Massachusetts: Mya Poe shares that Massachusetts college students ask for more funding and free tuition for a year.

Mississippi: Kerri Jordan describes the Funding Shortfalls in Mississippi.

Montana: Karen Henderson notes the possible closing of college campuses in Funding Proposals 2017 Legislature.

Nebraska: Deborah Minter writes Budget Shortfall Threatens Public College, Community College and University Budgets.

Oregon: In her Focus on Oregon: Budget and Free Community College, Cornelia Paraskevas describes Oregon’s budget shortfall and the ramifications of Oregon Promise assisting wealthier families more than those with lower incomes.

Pennsylvania: Due to declining budgets and enrollments, D. Alexis Hart writes about the Possible Reorganization of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

Rhode Island: Michael Geary describes Rhode Island’s Promise: Free Tuition.

Utah: SLCC Promise Offers “Free” Community College, according to Christie Toth.

Wisconsin: Donna Pasternak writes Governor Walker Proposes Closer Monitoring of Faculty Workloads While Allowing Students to Opt Out of Fees in 2017–2019 Budget Proposal That Will Increase Funding at WI IHEs.


Arkansas: Donna Wake delineates various Legislative Actions in Arkansas, including a ban of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, options for education savings accounts, expansion of charter schools, and a requirement that all K-6 and special education licensure candidates take a stand-alone test in skills related to the “science of reading.”

Idaho: In Change Is in the Air, Darlene Dyer describes the legislature’s funding proposals.

Kentucky: Emily Zuccaro analyzes KY HB 250: Charter Schools.

Maine: Susan Stires reports Rural Public Schools See Choice as a Detriment to Their Communities.

Massachusetts: Mya Poe filed a number of reports: Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Approves Three New Charter Schools, Massachusetts’ Four-Year Graduation Rate Improves for 10th Consecutive Year, Massachusetts Leads Nation in Advanced Placement Success, Massachusetts FY2018 Budget Released, and Massachusetts Introduces Public Website to Search Teacher and Administrator Licensure.

Minnesota: Ezra Hyland writes about the Minnesota Senate E-12 Education Budget.

New York: Derek Kulnis posted about Renewal Schools and the Community Schools Model, New York State Eliminates ALST Test, and the increase in New York Graduation Rates.

Pennsylvania: Aileen Hower shares Wolf Administration Reacts to Proposed Cuts, Calls on US Secretary of Education to Support Investments in Public Education.

Vermont: Susanmarie Harrington suggests NCTE members in Vermont might find the Agency of Education’s weekly field memo a useful resource.

Virginia: Mabel Khawaja files A Brief Report on Charter Schools in Virginia.

Wisconsin: Donna Pasternak discusses the implications for English language arts and NCTE in State of Wisconsin Proposing New Teacher Licensure Regulations to Curtail Teacher Shortage. [Readers may want to read Peg Grafwallner’s reponse to Donna’s report titled “Of Teacher Shortages and Licensure Regulations,” posted April 14 on Literacy & NCTE.]

PreK–12 and Higher Education

Delaware: In Remediating the Need for Remediation, Christine Cucciarre describes a pilot course, Foundations of College English, to prepare high school students for college-level writing and avoid the need for remediation.

Florida: In Developmental Education and 2016/17 State Bills, Alison Reynolds provides a snapshot of various policies and legislation, including a policy that allows students to opt out of developmental courses, a focus on four-year graduation from college, a pilot program for competency-based education, and expansion of school choice.

Oklahoma: Michele Eodice and Anastasia Wickham delineate a number of aspects of the Oklahoma Budget Crisis.

South Carolina: In Reading, Writing, and Roadwork in South Carolina, Matthew Nelson shares that the South Carolina House of Representatives would divert funds from education to roads.


Minnesota: Ezra Hyland listed education cuts in FY 18 Federal Budget. In U.S. Supreme Court Rules in 2 Special Education Cases, Ezra noted the Supreme Court’s ruling that IDEA law requires that the term “educational benefit” of a special education IEP means more than minimal progress, and the remanding back to the district court of a case involving a student with severe cerebral palsy bringing her service dog to class.


Trust Worthy

This is a guest post by Ellen Shubich. 

An article published in The Daily Beast on January 12, 2017, analyzing Megyn Kelly’s reputation as “the most trusted name in the news” got me thinking about trust and teaching.

In summary, the article states that Kelly has several characteristics that enable her to establish trust with her audiences. Her independent opinions and ideas, openly expressed, are backed up with detailed commentary rather than general statements. She is willing to show vulnerability, admits to imperfection, and acknowledges when she does not know something. Her sense of humor, humility, and insightful self-reflection reveal her humanity. Her use of first-person pronouns creates a personal connection with the audience.

This analysis sent my thoughts on trust and teaching in two directions. The first focused on the overwhelming information that teachers and students must make sense of. Who is trustworthy? What can be trusted?

To manage the task, so many skills—observation, listening, reading, writing, inquiry, etc.—must be brought to the process. And even when teachers and students seek credible sources, compare different opinions, gather evidence, and are aware of personal bias that may interfere with objective analysis, the time required to do all of this is often just not available. So much must be mastered and continually put into practice.

The second direction focused on teachers building trusting relationships with students. Trust is something teachers are made aware of early on in their training. We are urged to create a “safe” environment in which students feel comfortable and confident, a place in which healthy growth is nurtured.

And though Megyn Kelly may have the characteristics essential to building trust, many of us have to work on these qualities. For those teachers who have not kept up with advances in technology, students’ expertise may make them feel insecure and unwilling to admit they may not be in the “know.” For others, a good sense of humor is sometimes hard to maintain when faced with so many extra job responsibilities and numerous students with individual, special needs. Insightful self-reflection requires a great deal of honesty; some find it difficult to accept critical, though respectful, feedback and suggestions.

Students learn whom to trust. They look for fairness and respect. They recognize hard work and honesty and appreciate a sense of humor. They know we are not perfect. Nevertheless, if they grow to trust us, our defects will be more easily forgiven.

Ellen Schubich was born and raised in the Bronx and moved to Mexico 48 years ago when she married. She has a B.S.N. degree from Cornell University-New York Hospital and a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from the Universidad La Salle. Ellen has held many different positions: nurse, gerontologist, teacher of nursing, English teacher, coordinator, principal (Elementary and Middle School), and English principal. She is married, has a son and daughter and three grandchildren. 


Lost in the Past

This blog is written by seventh grader Grace Higgins, a student of NCTE member Joe Pizzo.

Joe Pizzo’s introduction:

When asked what techniques I use or lessons I teach to inspire depth in my students’ writing, such as Grace demonstrates in the following poem and explanation, I simply return to the main message of Laurence Perrine’s Sound and Sense: we do indeed write for sound, as well as for sense. I begin each of my integrated language arts classes with a “Do now” activity through which we learn a daily word and its definition. Next, my students write sentences of ten or more words and use the new word in those sentences. I must note that Grace has the unique ability to infuse poetry throughout her prose, no matter what the task happens to be. After reading a number of her original sentences that contained various poetic devices implemented with precision, I encouraged her to expand one of her sentences into a poem. She did so after some additional encouragement, and the result is typically impressive. As a writing teacher, my mission is both to inspire and to encourage my young writers. In the words of Virginia Woolf, “Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.”

Lost in the Past

The wind whispers, to the tune of an eternal brook, in my ear, the stories
that have slipped abruptly through my grasp.
My mind wanders,
then returns,
for I have remembered my adoration for the life in the reality,
set in my haven that provides my remembrance,
from the serene environment that wraps me tight,
like a snake vigorously squeezing its prey.
The sun shimmers, softly on the left side of my brain,
causing me to, like water to fire,
engulf its memories of days far from the moment.
Again, my mind lingers in memories
but as quickly as a forceful breath is drawn from my mouth,
I realize, like a mother recalling her flock, my dream
and return to the actuality of existence I call my haven of sanity.
Lightning crashes onto a tree,
in the forest beside my right hand,
and my mind flashes, like the flicker of a lightbulb,
to the purlieus of my youth
I have forgotten reality.
I am lost in the past.
—Grace Higgins

The present is a gift. However, many people do not experience this gift. The poem “Lost
in the Past” represents the feeling of not being able to live for today because the past holds one back. Without peace with the past, one cannot move forward in life. “My mind wanders, then returns, for I have remembered my adoration for the life in the reality” means that the person loves their life in the present but the past keeps haunting the person, therefore preventing progress in the present.

The inspiration for this poem came from both meeting people who struggle with
their past and seeing the pain and suffering they face every day. This inspiration then led to the idea to writing a poem about the daily struggles that hundreds of people face. The poem hopes to shed light on both these struggles and the burdens of the past.

After finishing the poem, my writing style has changed from a more immature, bouncy
style to a sophisticated, in-depth style. For instance, I used to write, “The room was colorful.” However, now I write sentences like, “The room flourished with colors of green and painting of days long past adorned the turquoise walls.¨ This experience has widened my expanse of writing styles, thus allowing me to play with unique writing styles and technique.

Grace Higgins is a 7th grade student from Chester, New Jersey who has achieved high honor roll every semester while at Black River Middle School.  In addition to being a dedicated student who loves to read and write, Grace participates in soccer, basketball, ski club, track, chorus, Girl Scouts, and the alter server ministry at Saint Lawrence Church.  Grace is known by her friends and family to be kind-hearted, helpful, and someone who lets her light shine in a way befitting of her name.  


Who am I becoming through my fellowship with CNV?

This post is by member Marcus Croom. 

A common technique for measuring change is to take a snapshot of something at one point (pre-) and examine it against another comparable snapshot taken at some later point (post-). As a newcomer to the CNV fellowship, I decided to create some early snapshots to which I can return at the end of this unique opportunity. My question: Who am I becoming through my fellowship with CNV? Following are three recalled snapshots that are important to me now. Toward the end of my fellowship, I’d like to revisit these snapshots and add new ones in order to document and describe my development. Because of my own interest in genre, I have thought about the genre I am using here and how to describe it. I regard this text as the opening episode of a micro-comparative memoir, a genre with at least two meaningfully comparative discourses. I create this genre to help me answer a significant question in my life.

Click: George Kamberelis emails me to introduce himself as my mentor and I’m geeked! I chose him as one of several potential mentors because his work focuses on philosophic issues, genre, and the nature and effects of different modes of classroom discourse. That’s exactly the kind of thinking partner I need for my work. Man, he’s published so much stuff! His CV is like a scroll. It seems like we are both in the field of literacy because our careers unexpectedly unfolded into literacy research. I think we might be able to relate through our less-affluent backgrounds and our less-traditional journeys into the field. We also share a background in religious studies. Hmm, he seems to be a White guy with convictions about racial justice. It’s always heartening to detect White folks who are not in racial darkness. George and I schedule a talk and we hangout via Google. He’s an intellectual heavyweight, yet he seems like such a cool guy. He’s already sharing ideas that are moving me forward in my thinking. Wow, George Kamberelis is my CNV mentor. This is going to be great!

Click: At our first CNV 2016–18 cohort Fall Institute at the NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta, each mentor and fellow shares their story. One-by-one we solo, with a full soul, to our caring choir of color. I realize that I’m more impressed with who these amazing people are than withtheir scholarship and accomplishments.

These mentors and fellows are uplifting people, people who are resolved to doing good work in the world. I’m awestruck by their generosity and transparency. In so many ways, our times have tested these women and men, yet as scholars, they have remained true to the good fight of justice.

As I collect the contours of these scholars’ particular experiences, I also realize the terror of choosing a career path that is routinely and stubbornly anti-egalitarian, unmeritocratic, and constrained by the racially White superordinate assumption. Note for readers: Don’t misunderstand, I already knew this. Each story we heard raised themes that were familiar to me. Understand that I’ve been cross-training for an anti-Black world since at least Goldsboro High School (in North Carolina) and at each HBCU (Historically Black College or University) from which I have graduated. The terror did not come from surprise, rather from proximity. Notwithstanding all else, including Trump’s approaching presidency, here I am choosing our mentors’ well-worn journey: tenure-track professorship in a research-intensive institution. In this cohort moment, I feel like I’m standing in the hypogeum of higher education’s savage arena. In this close dialogue with the mentors of our cohort, I feel the weight of this savage arena—we all got next. Also close to me, though not present, are my beloved ones at home in Oak Park (Illinois). Come what may, and however I manage to navigate this savage arena, my path will impact my family’s future; including retiring my old student loans, retiring the soon-to-be mortgage of our second purchased house, and even retiring from the labor market altogether. As if I were nearing another African door of no return, I ask aloud, “What am I doing?” Hearing me, George supportively looks on as another CNV mentor at our table replies in a sisterly tone, “The right thing.”

Click: I’m at the NCTE Annual Convention for the very first time because of CNV. I’ve heard about this conference and have wanted to go, but the LRA (Literacy Research Association) conference is the annual gathering for my field and AERA is THE research conference, so I’ve had to choose carefully which conferences to attend as a doc student. The struggle is real. Without CNV, I wouldn’t be here this week. Glancing at the program, the sessions at NCTE seem outstanding. I’m glad NCTE provided the conference schedule through an app, the same way that the International Conference on Urban Education also did two weeks ago. It’s so hard to pick sessions. Each of the sessions I found (using a keyword search for race) sound amazing.

Time for our CNV Poster Session (p. 29). Dang, I forgot to bring push-pins! Never mind, I’m good. There’s a brand new box of clear ones under the boards set up by the Convention Center. The questions and feedback mentioned during the poster session are so helpful. I’ve gotta keep in touch with the folks who signed up for my contact list. I want to make the most of the network that CNV is offering me. By the time I graduate, I gotta have a job lined up. It looks like all of the fellows are having a great time and are connecting with a lot of passersby. After our CNV Poster Session, I head to “Supporting the Academic Achievement and Cultural Identity of Black Adolescent Males.”(p.41) I’m liking, and learning from, the way one of the researchers used “racial storylines.” Good thing I got to hear this sister’s presentation. Oh my goodness: A high school classmate I haven’t seen in years and George were both in this session too! I didn’t even see them until we were walking out. I introduce my classmate to George, and the three of us stand talking for a few moments about the fiery exchanges we heard. My nine-nickel classmate, an English teacher in Atlanta, is singing at a gig in Stone Mountain tonight and she invites me to come. That’s wild—what are the odds? Goldsboro is in the building, NCTE!

Debut: In Autumn, age 40 awaits. For now, an unsettling haze wafts between this last leg to commencement and my treasured definition of success. It hovers and occasionally wrinkles, making the specific steps I should take appear and disappear like drifting clouds. I wonder: Does it profit to have a better understanding of race or to develop racial literacies? Yes, this is significant, justice-minded work. But will my costly justice work profit (the university I work for, the schools I work with, the family I live for)? I don’t yet have the answers I want. Still urgently, at every possible moment, I move forward and work thoughtfully within my immediate clear view. When I must pause, I stand trusting. Make no mistake, I am not the trusting type. I’m learning to stand trusting at forced pauses because of defining moments that have left me no other choice. As it turns out, I am the situated captain of my fate. Remembering my peaks and valleys, I look back now and marvel with gratitude. I was brought this far by caring collaborators, helpful hardships, and immortal love. If it had not been for all that was on my side in this anti-Black world, where would I be? Now, with the added support of CNV, who am I becoming?

Marcus Croom is currently a doctoral candidate of Literacy, Language, and Culture at University of Illinois at Chicago. Within his broader interest in literacies and race, Croom’s research will continue to document teachers’ understandings of race and examine the influence these understandings may have on teacher efficacy, student identification, pedagogical reasoning, and teaching practices in literacy instruction.


I, Too, Am a Writer

This post is written by member Katie Kraushaar. 

Six years ago, if you had told me that I would be sharing my messy, work-in-progress writing with my 7th graders and listening as they gave me feedback, I would have laughed. Feedback? From my students? Who’s the teacher here?

But there I was, standing in front of 25 thirteen-year-olds, bemoaning the fact that the scene where my protagonist was supposed to meet a friend just wasn’t working.

I looked at my students. “I need some ideas. What do you think?” Hands started to raise, and conversations floated between writing partners as they excitedly discussed directions for my story. As students shared ideas, I furiously typed comments on my manuscript, trying to capture all of the possibilities. Later, I’d go back and rewrite the scene, weaving in Kate’s suggestion that my protagonist give herself a pep talk before meeting her new friend, as well as Izzy’s idea that she should be writing in her journal, a character trait that was important to the storyline.

These days, I am intentional about using the word writers when referring to my students and myself. This language makes it clear that, in this room, we write and learn together. It wasn’t always this way. Too often, the way writing is taught amplifies the division between the students and the teacher: one is there to teach, while the rest are there to be taught.

When I first started teaching, I was guilty of approaching writing this way because I did not call myself a writer. Sure, I wrote, but I wasn’t a writer.  Like many of our students, I associated the word with someone who had an agent and who spent hours workshopping manuscripts to shop around to publishing companies. The word “writer” was reserved for the elite few…not for teachers like me.

This mindset is damaging. It is what made me spend the first few years of my teaching career turning to the comfort of pre-made graphic organizers and canned, prescriptive ways of teaching writing, turning the art of putting words on a page into a paint-by-numbers activity.

It is what made me clutch my own words close to my chest, scared to share my writing with my students for fear that they would see my imperfections and declare me unfit to teach English. It is what ultimately made my teaching of writing inauthentic, unmemorable, and frankly, ineffective.

Six years later, I am comfortable calling myself a writer, both to my students and to myself. This simple statement is one that resonates. It dismantles the pedestal writing is often placed on and makes it accessible for anyone who has something to say. It gives students the confidence to say, “I, too, am a writer.”

This revolutionized my approach to the teaching of writing. When we began gathering ideas for our realistic fiction stories, instead of spending time searching the Internet for graphic organizers, I filled pages in my journal with my own ideas and noted my process. I shared my approach with my writers and invited them to experiment with different methods of discovering story ideas.

As we began drafting, predictably, we learned that writing a story is anything but easy. We hit many snags: ideas that didn’t go anywhere, phrases that just wouldn’t sing, the long distance between what’s in the head and what ends up on the page.

In the past, these struggles would have elicited rubric-based criticism that emphasized my role as an evaluator. However, because I write, feedback looks less like an “I say, you do” process and more like a conversation between two people who are on a journey together.

I am able to nod my head in solidarity when students describe a difficulty and say, “Oh, me too. I’ve had trouble with that before. Let’s figure this out together.” Because I write, I am empathetic, not just sympathetic. Telling my students that I deal with the very same issues they do allows both of us to put our heads together as fellow writers to determine a best course of action.

When we published our realistic fiction stories, we took time to share them, savoring the chance to read each other’s words. In the past, I might have skipped this step, instead gathering up the stories to critique and grade. However, because I see myself as a writer too, we take time to celebrate. We honor our work because writing is hard. Writers need this encouragement. They need to know that their words matter and that someone has read them. This perspective is only possible because I write.

The truth about writing is that it is never finished. And we are never completely finished “becoming” writers, no matter how many years of practice we have or degrees we hold. Every time I pick up a pen, I remember that writing is hard. This knowledge follows me into the classroom when I watch my writers work to put words on the page, and weaves itself into every interaction I have with them.

In the classroom of a teacher who calls herself a writer, writing is no longer a remote act reserved for the creative few. Writing is for everyone with something to say, and anyone who writes is a writer. A freeing truth for both students and teachers alike.

Katie Kraushaar is a 7th grade English-Language Arts teacher in St. Louis, MO. In addition to her seven years in the classroom, Katie is a Teacher Consultant for the Gateway Writing Project, a satellite of the National Writing Project. Connect with Katie through her blog and on Twitter.