Ryan Wertz Speaks for Ohio

A few weeks ago Chris Roberts communicated again by email with Ryan Wertz, the World Language Consultant for the Ohio Dept. of Education. What he got back from Ryan, given what we knew about him up to this point is, in Chris’ words, “damning, powerful and empowering. It may boost morale to see these comments from a state level head honcho.” Chris prefaces Ryan’s comments with these words, and then Ryan’s response is in italics:

I know that our community has had some issues with [Ryan] but after a little conversation with him today, I actually feel a little energized and better.  Despite some of the issues before, I do think that Ryan’s heart is in the right place.  In fact, it wasn’t just him that wrote the revised standards here in Ohio.  Teri Wiechart  (yes, the TPRS Teri Wiechart) had a humongous role in the revision of the new standards.  She and Ryan, from what I understand, are pretty good friends. So knowing this, I decided to email him.  I basically told him everything that I told you.

Below is his response:

Hmm. You’re not the first person who has shared this very scenario for me. Nobody likes change and the additional work it creates, but to your colleagues who want to engage in the “same old same old,” I would say that resistance is futile and their jobs will hang in the balance if they intend to continue with their focus on grammar at the expense of building their communicative abilities. Your points about the new AP test are very well taken (and articulated).  I have begun training administrators what to look for in terms of best practices in the classroom. Over-reliance on textbooks, a grammar focus and general lack of treatment of the 3 modes of communication are all things administrators are being trained to look out for as signs of ineffective instructional practices.

With regard to your work around SLOs (student learning objectives), I would merely point out that assessments measure achievement – not student growth (which in our discipline refers to growth in language proficiency as characterized by the ACTFL Proficiency and Performance guidelines). Period.  It is not characterized by an increased ability to conjugate verbs, spew memorized vocabulary words in memorized chunks, and so forth. In our field, the only way we at the ODE believe you can adequately measure students’ proficiency growth is using standards-based SLOs (as found in LinguaFolio) in combination with integrated performance assessments. Anything that measures “grammar/vocabulary acquisition” is an achievement measure and a moot effort. Period.

I daresay you’ve got your work cut out for you, but I would strongly encourage you to hold to your guns. That old school thinking among your colleagues is going to blow up in their faces. There is major change going on, and unlike in the past when we in WL were able to hide behind our closed doors and ignore what was going on, the new educator effectiveness system will very directly affect our discipline and will bode very negatively for those who would resist embracing modern communicative language pedagogy. 

My two cents… for what they’re worth!

Chris closes with:

Despite some philosophical differences, I feel some major power in those words.  The guy in charge of the world language standards in Ohio, an official “authority” said those words.  You could basically say that those words are from the Ohio Dept. of Education.  However, I’m going to keep myself from getting too optimistic because despite this those teachers will still resist and fight and leave me with some scars.  But, I do believe that he’s right that it will eventually blow up in their face.

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2 thoughts on “Ryan Wertz Speaks for Ohio”

  1. Wonderful, wonderful news Chris!!!! After a stressful day regarding SLO’s in my district yesterday, this takes some of the weight off of my shoulders this morning..thank you so much for sharing!

    with love,
    Laurie

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