Wednesday, December 22, 2004

and the scam goes on….

So here’s the latest installment on the literacy education standards saga…. I received the following email from the International Reading Association the other day—the subject line read, 'Preparing For NCATE Accreditation?':

Dear Michele Knobel,

Is Your Graduate Program in Reading/Literacy Preparing for NCATE/IRA Accreditation?

The International Reading Association is planning a one-day institute on writing a program report for NCATE accreditation at its Annual Convention in San Antonio on Sunday, May 1, 2005.

Registration for Institute No. 22 entitled "IRA and NCATE: A Partnership for Teacher Quality", is now open to only IRA members on our website.
Visit our website at for details. To register, you will need to click on the "Registration" link at the top of the web page and log in to your account at our secure online registration system with the following username and password combination.

Username: xxxxxxx
Password: xxxxxx

For nonmembers, general registration doesn't open until January, but if you'd like to guarantee your spot at the conference, please use the login information provided above and join IRA as a member today, and then add registration to your shopping cart.

NCATE has simplified the program report process for colleges and universities. A Web-based report template will be used by all Specialty Professional Associations (SPAs). Colleges and universities are required to show how their candidates have mastered the content knowledge in reading/literacy, how they conceptualize and plan their teaching, how they implement their plan with students, and what the effect is on student learning. Institutions are asked to identify 6-8 performance-based assessments that relate to the IRA standards.

This session answers the following sample questions and much more!
1) What are the components of a program report?
2) What is a rubric and how is it used to prepare a program report?
3) How much data need to be included?
4) Does IRA have sample assignments, assessments, and rubrics?

If you have additional questions, contact Gail Keating at

As someone who is ‘preparing for NCATE accreditation’ and who is keenly interested in obtaining sample assignments blah blah blah I dutifully logged on to see what the day-long program looked like etc. etc. (when will I ever learn?! Are there no limits to my naivete?!). It turns out that even for IRA members, ‘Institute No. 22” (number 22????) costs $125 for a day-long insider spiel on what it takes to pass NCATE inspection for literacy (i.e., reading) specialist degrees. Okay, now I’m no maths whiz, but lemme see… If a conservative estimate puts enrollment in the one-day ‘institute’ (gimme a break! ‘Institute’?!) at 200, that’s $25,000 into the IRA coffers (sans the consultancy fee for the folk running the ‘institute’). If this really is the 22nd one of these things IRA has run, that spells $$BIG BUCKS$$ whichever way you look at it. I really don’t get it. If the IRA is genuinely interested in the quality of literacy specialists produced by US universities, surely things like sample rubrics, assignments and whatnot would be free….. This whole NCATE accreditation thing is inevitable, but for those of us who would like to escape with at least some dignity and professionalism intact need to start a grassroots movement in order to circumvent the propriety rights the IRA seems to have claimed for itself—so, anyone interested in obtaining the rubrics and assignment descriptions etc. that we've put together here at Montclair State U., just send me an email and I’ll mail you a CD-ROM of what we’ve put together. Of course, what we've done is far from perfect, but it’s a place to start from nonetheless. AND our stuff is FREE!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Meanwhile, on the ground .....

A quick web search has revealed this free airport wireless internet hotspot information site together with a site for Continental Airlines President's Club locations in the USA and in other countries. The former site requests ongoing feedback on the accuracy of its listings. With respect to the latter site, while, as of yet, I can only vouch for the accuracy of the Houston Bush International Airport hotspot, I think it is particularly worthwhile checking the President's Club sites out to see if the signals go through the walls as well in other places as they do at Houston. As of last week there was no password requirement for accessing the Continental service at Houston.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Celestial I-Mode

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to give airline passengers high speed internet connections during flights. The story holds the promise that it may soon not matter at all if planes are late -- that business meeting or conference presentation may be only a click away, on time, on demand at 33,000 feet. The ultimate freedom?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Paying homage to Sir Doug

Today I caught up, belatedly, with a dear friend I never met. Doug Sahm (of the Sir Douglas Quintet and numerous other distinguished musical incarnations), the Crown Prince of Tex-Mex, loyal friend of Chicano/as, and a thoroughly good-hearted human being, has brought me more musical pleasure over the years than I could possibly describe. So much pleasure that on my long overdue sabbatical from Auckland University in late 1988 I set aside a week to visit San Antonio in order to see if he was playing somewhere, maybe to be able to catch a glimpse of the man, see him in the flesh working his musical magic. It was an act that scaled the heights of evidence-free decision-making. Sir Doug hadn't been living in San Antonio for years. Not satisfied with the first such advice from someone who obviously knew I sought second and third opinions. The same story. Devastated, defeated, desolate, I got in supplies and holed up in my Motel 6 for the week, writing a paper on Literacy and the Underclass. Why be happy?

I did get some more of his music on that trip -- after all, there weren't too many places in New Zealand that had his music on the shelves in 1988. Well, none that I could find. It was always a mail order job, and sometimes the stuff never arrived. I kept on listening to Sir Doug, as one does. And I will never forget the night in Brisbane at a party during some literacy conference or other when I mentioned Sir Doug, and the Crown Prince of Literacy Scholarship, Jim Gee, said: "Doug Sahm, he's my favourite. For a moment I felt twice blessed, and Jim confirmed his place -- as if he needed to -- on my top shelf. Go, Jim.

Sir Doug died on 18 November 1999 -- a fact that escaped me until this year, because I was living in Mexico and missed the news. I was devastated. Courtesy of Find a Grave I learned that Sir Doug was buried at the Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in San Antonio. I won't say that this fact presented a major reason for accepting an invitation to give a plenary address at this week's National Research Conference in San Antonio. But it was certainly a consideration *grin*

So today, early this afternoon, the GPS in the rental car proved its worth, and we arrived at the cemetery on a lovely mild early winter's Saturday. Some workers directed us to Section 20 and we traced our way along the lines looking for Plot 201. It didn't take long to find. We found Sir Doug buried alongside his parents, who also died rather young.

The following links will take you to the Doug Sahm pages and Kilian Mathis's Ultimate Doug Sahm Discography.

The entrance to the cemetery is at the intersection of Eisenhauer Road and the Austin Highway, reached by taking the exit to 410 North off the 35 on your way out of San Antonio, toward Austin. Posted by Hello

When you reach here you will find Section 20 just 30 metres further along the road, on your left Posted by Hello

This kind, gentle generous man is watched over by the Good Shepherd. Posted by Hello

A peaceful place to lay down one's guitar. Posted by Hello

Resting beside his parents. Posted by Hello

RIP, Sir Doug. Posted by Hello

A Neat Manga Research Resource, and more

Greetings from the National Reading Conference in San Antonio. Part of the reason for our silence in this space recently is due to the fact that we had to get our paper together for the conference. This accounted for two weeks of two lives, and it is still no more than a draft. Called "From Pencilvania to Pixelandia: Mapping the Terrain of 'New' Literacies Research", the document currently exists as an unedited 40 page 'resource'that we somehow managed to speak to for the best part of an hour. As soon as we have edited it into a respectable form we will put it on our website.

Meanwhile, in the course of researching the paper we came upon this really useful manga research site. It helped us a lot.

Our talk also owed a massive amount to the generosity of Angela Thomas, who gave us a free hand to cite her current study and some of the data coming from it. We used a lengthy slab of transcript from an interview Angela conducted with one of her teenage study participants (who was Violetta *grin* for the duration of that interview). We also cited Angela's account of some of her data collection and data analysis techniques. The interview transcript excerpt and the study description that we cited were wonderfully well received. Than you, Violetta and Angela. For any readers not familiar with Angela's study and her wonderful participants we suggest you check out e-selves. We will be publishing Angela's book about this study during 2005 in our New Literacies series with Peter Lang Publishing, and are looking forward greatly to seeing the completed mss very soon, Angela *grin*.

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