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ERAC Revisited

At our last executive meeting, one of our members expressed a concern regarding a troubling district-wide email she received from her board office: a ‘friendly’ reminder to submit any novel titles she may be considering for her classes next year to BC ERAC so that they could be approved for use. A colleague’s request for clarification was answered with a general confirmation that any novels used in the classroom next year must be on the ERAC list (http://www.bcerac.ca/ and scroll on NOVEL). Until now she has exercised her professional autonomy and reviewed novels herself during the summer if she felt she wanted to use something new in the coming year.

This development is troubling.

It is troubling because while BC ERAC’s list of recommended novels is a great resource for all English Language Arts teachers looking for some suggestions for new novels, the process is not entirely transparent. The titles that are deemed appropriate for classroom use are published along with their evaluations on the BC ERAC website, but those titles that are rejected are not accessible to the public; they are supposedly on the secure portion of the website accessible only to those with a login and password (not the average teacher).

I became curious: what were the titles submitted for review but not accepted? How easy was it for an average teacher to access them? I contacted the BC ERAC head office (housed in the Vancouver School Board building) and asked for a copy of the ‘reject list.’ I was referred to my district contact, who had the required login and password and after an initial exchange in which he declared to know nothing about the list I desired, he agreed to look into it. At the time of this writing, he has failed to get back to me, and that was over a month ago.

Resource selection is admittedly a complex process that involves evaluating materials based on appropriateness of audience, content, usefulness in meeting curricular outcomes, and a wide array of social considerations. When the Ministry of Education “got out of the business” of recommending resources (1998), it created a situation in which that responsibility was devolved to the local level. In some districts, such as Surrey, a good working model was developed that valued teacher input and judgment.

What is troubling to our executive is the obvious movement toward strict direction of classroom resources and the limitation of teachers’ professional autonomy. It’s a little exasperating; my colleagues can enumerate more than one instance where teachers have fought for professional autonomy in resource selection during their careers. Please let us know if you encounter the “dark side” of the BC ERAC novel recommended list. BCTELA will do its part to ensure that this information be shared. Contact our curriculum coordinator Rachael Corneil at rcorneil@sd40.bc.ca

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