Kopp and Stevens

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Case Study 2: Southern Arizona Writing Project Publicity Video

Our second practical example is a video produced by Drew Kopp in 2006 under the supervision of Anne-Marie Hall, Director, to provide publicity for the Southern Arizona Writing Project (SAWP, an affiliate of the National Writing Project).

The SAWP video's audience and venue are less defined than those of our first case study, as this video is less intimately linked to recurring institutional practices (such as those provided in the last case by new student orientation and new instructor preceptorship). It serves SAWP's ongoing need to stay visible in order to stay viable, and it has been shown to a range of audiences, including school administrators at SAWP's annual breakfast, visitors to the SAWP web site (n. d.), and teachers at professional in-services. The video suits several purposes, including recruiting teacher-participants for SAWP programs such as the Summer Institute or Saturday Seminars, encouraging school administrators to promote the professional development available through these programs, and demonstrating SAWP's value to funding agencies.

The video's most consistent message is that K-12 teachers are already professionals, and that SAWP helps teachers collaboratively deepen this existing professionalism. Developed in 2006 within a state context whose practices include one of the nation's lowest per capita education budgets, punitive funding cuts for schools whose students score low on standardized tests, pedagogical practices dictated legislatively outside of particular teaching contexts, and low teacher pay coupled with high teacher workload, it is quite possible to read the video's message as a response to the systemic de-skilling of professional educators. The video, however, refuses to engage in an explicit dialectic with de-skilling practices that are all too easy to call to mind given their vocal public supporters. It leaves the views it wishes to disarticulate implicit, and perhaps inaudible to some audiences, keeping its emphasis on how SAWP supports teachers' professionalism.

Nonetheless, particular emphases within the videos seem to reference, quietly, problematic aspects of the southern Arizona context. For example, in compliance with No Child Left Behind, the high-stakes, directive, timed writing portion of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) often drives writing instruction in ways that a speaker in the above clip, principal Wayne Ross, sets aside. Sidestepping AIMS except to acknowledge its rubrics, he praises portfolio assessment and honors children who learn, through conferences, to recognize their uniqueness and their progress as writers. Also in the above clip appears Mary Carmen Cruz, who serves as a high school teacher of English Language Learners (ELL), a curriculum coordinator, and a SAWP board member. Given that Arizona has placed constraints on bilingual education through English-only legislation, Cruz's enthusiasm for professional networking and research-led responses to ELL invites her audience into a joyful alternative to legislative prescriptions. Neither of these speakers directly confront state mandates; they simply present a potential point of emotional attachment to ideas that Arizona's mainstream public forums often ignore. In this and other ways, the SAWP video responds to its public context by leaving contrary views of writing instruction silent and articulating its own premises in a celebration of professionalism.

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