Work Begins on ALSC-sponsored Project on High School Literature Curricula

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ALSC Councillor Sandra Stotsky has begun the work of collecting data for the long-anticipated ALSC-sponsored project on high school literature curricula in the U.S. The project has substantial support from the University of Arkansas, The Bradley Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities*, and partnerships with The Concord Review and the California Reading and Literature Project.

Dr. Stotsky has provided ALSC with a basic outline of the project. We hope members and non-members alike will be as pleased and excited about this development as the governors and staff of the Association are. Queries about the project (one of the products of which will be an issue of ALSC’s special topics journal, Forum) can be directed to Sandra Stotsky c/o the ALSC at or 617-358-1990.

Literary and Non-Literary Works and Approaches Used in American High School English Classes.
Project Description: Based on recent surveys and observations, most American students graduate from high school with little literary knowledge and understanding. They also seem to have had minimal exposure to high quality historical nonfiction and other expository texts in their English or history courses. Their reading and writing skills are in decline, according to National Assessment of Educational Progress assessments in grade 12.

This study will gather data on what major literary and non-literary works are being taught in English classes in grades 9-11, how much class time is devoted to literary and non-literary study, and what pedagogical approaches teachers use. We seek to explore the extent to which high school students are sufficiently challenged by what they are assigned to read and write in grades 9-11 so that they can develop the reading and writing skills needed for authentic college-level coursework in the humanities.

Data collection for this study takes two forms. (1) A nationwide representative sample of English teachers in grades 9-11 (about 900) will be interviewed over the telephone by an experienced survey center on their assignments and approaches in teaching literary and non-literary texts. (2) Ten focus group meetings will be held during the fall of 2009 to explore in greater depth issues raised by the interview data. Each focus group will consist of 8-12 English teachers and school librarians.

Data analysis and interpretation will reflect the collaboration of an Advisory Board consisting of members of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. We anticipate being able to present an accurate picture of the central content of the high school English curriculum in this country at present. We will also make recommendations for a coherent sequence of reading assignments from grade 9 to grade 11 in order to strengthen the high school English curriculum for all students.

*N.B. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Website do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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