There are three main problems with our current approach to reading, writing, and math across the curriculum:
1. The Cinderella Factor: “The shoe has to fit!”
Secondary teachers sometimes see the reading, writing, and math Assessment Anchors as an impediment to teaching their subjects, an intrusion into their curriculum. Quite frankly, at times — perhaps even “often” — they are right. Expecting all reading, writing, and math
Assessment Anchors to be taught in all subjects has its problems. Some Assessment Anchors are a good fit, and others have little to do with the subject at hand. The glass slipper simply doesn’t match all feet, no matter how hard we try to force the fit! By compelling everyone to be responsible for all Assessment Anchors, we can inadvertently end up with no one fully responsible for any Assessment Anchors other than English and math teachers.
2. The Swiss cheese Factor: “The holes have to work for the whole!”
Typically teachers select from the vast array of Assessment Anchors at the individual level.
There tends to be little school wide orderliness in the process of deciding what Assessment Anchors to teach in each discipline, even less tracking of the decisions that have been made.
Sometimes particular Assessment Anchors are emphasized across the school, based on areas of need, but there is typically no systematic system to monitor when and where these highlighted
Assessment Anchors are taught. As a result, some Assessment Anchors are relatively ignored — hence the “holes” in the Swiss cheese! Without a tracking system, these holes are invisible, and it’s easy to ignore key Assessment Anchors without meaning to.
3. The Post-It Note Factor: “Full ownership, not ‘Lick and Stick’!”
If students don’t know how to perform the reading, writing, or math Assessment Anchor being taught, does the teacher stop and teach them how to do it? Often teachers focus on including the reading, writing, or math Assessment Anchor in their lessons, but are not able to stop and teach those Assessment Anchors to students who don’t get it. They literally “stick” the reading, writing, or math Assessment Anchor onto lesson plans where they see a fit, but their focus remains firmly fixed on their own course content — a kind of Post-It Note strategy. As a result, the reading, writing, and math across the curriculum strategy tends to give opportunity for students who already know how to do the work, while students who don’t know how to perform those Assessment Anchors with some degree of skill remain in the dark.
Why does this happen? Among other things, it happens because:
1. Time is short, and every teacher has lots to teach in every course.
Let’s look first at why it does NOT happen. It does NOT happen simply because teachers choose to ignore reading, writing, and math Assessment Anchors. If you look at the amount of time available per course, you will see that there are precious few hours of class time, and that time is typically filled to the brim with content. Adding Assessment Anchors that are not a good fit on top of huge content requirements can make the teacher’s job impossible.
2. We don’t have good strategies for working as a school-wide team.
So why DOES this happen? It happens because we don’t have a good strategy for designing a school wide system of teaching reading, writing, and math that makes sense. It happens because we don’t coordinate as a team.