This summer I am teaching a course on integrating English language arts and social studies. On Tuesday night I asked my graduate students to consider whether integration truly is possible in this era of high stakes testing. Since then I have realized that I asked the wrong question. Of course integration is possible. Not only is is possible; it is one of the better approaches to instruction. We have both craft knowledge and research to support that fact.
What I should have asked my students is whether integration is allowed. Most of my students (27 out of 30) are in-service teachers, and many of them face limitations in how they are allowed to teach. It seems that many curriculum planners and administrators have interpreted the accountability of mandated tests as meaning that the subjects must be taught in isolation. It's this type of thinking that has led to the now common approach of teaching-to-the-test.
So what do we do next? How do we convince decision makers who mandate instructional approaches that the best way to prepare students for tests is to teach in the ways they learn best?