by Jack Cassidy and Stephanie Grote-Garcia
The article in the latest issue of Reading Today is the 18th year for the publication of the What’s Hot, What’s Not survey. Over the years, the survey has been cited in numerous publications, translated into Spanish and replicated in specific states and other countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Rumania. Each year, the same format has been followed for creating the survey, selecting the respondents, gathering the responses, and tallying the results. Obviously, in the first year of the study, a different process had to be used in constructing the list of items. That year―1996―the list was created by consulting literacy journals, popular periodicals, and conference programs, as well as various authorities in the field.
Creating the 2014 Survey
The first step toward identifying the “hot” issues for 2014 was constructing the survey. This process began by e-mailing the previous year’s list of topics to the 25 literacy leaders who responded to the survey last year. From there, these literacy leaders suggested modifications, additions, and deletions for the 2014 list. This process resulted in two topics being added to the 2014 survey―close reading/deep reading and international comparisons.
Selecting the Respondents
The 2014 respondents were selected based on a number of criteria. The first and most important criterion was that all 25 of them needed to have a national or international perspective on literacy. At the time of selection, many of them were on the boards of prominent literacy organizations or editors of the major journals in the field of literacy.
In addition to having a broad perspective on literacy, respondents needed to represent different job categories (e.g., college professors, classroom teachers, administrators) and various geographical areas in the United States, Canada, and outside North America. The percentage of IRA members in a given area determined the number of literacy leaders interviewed from that region. Representing the East for 2014 were Jay Blanchard, Rona Flippo, Virginia Goatley, Donald J. Leu, Jill Lewis-Spector, Barbara A. Marinak, and Dorothy Strickland. From the Southeast were Richard Allington, Donna Avermann, Estanislado Barrera IV, Marsha Lewis, and Victoria Risko. The Great Lakes area was represented by Nell Duke, Susan B. Neuman, Timothy Rasinski, and Timothy Shanahan. Mary Lou Benesch represented the Plains area, while the West area was represented by Diane Barone, Douglas Fisher, and P. David Pearson. Other areas included the Southwest, represented by James V. Hoffman and Misty Sailors; the Rocky Mountains, represented by Ray Reutzel; Canada, represented by Shelley Stagg Peterson; and outside North America, represented by Heather Bell.
Conducting the Survey
During the spring and summer months the literacy leaders were interviewed by phone or in person. The direct oral contact with the respondents is important and unfortunately has not always been employed by those replicating the survey. All the respondents in the United States were read a standard 178-word paragraph explaining that their ratings of “hot” would not mean that they agree with nor favor the particular practice or concept themselves. Instead, it would merely mean that they see it as a focus of current attention. Similarly, a vote for “not hot” would not mean that they lack interest in the topic themselves. Next, the respondents were asked whether the topic “should be hot” or “should not be hot.” The same percentages were used in labeling a topic “not hot” or “cold.”
Tallying the Results
After all 25 surveys are completed, the collected ratings were tallied. Topics identified by at least 75% of the respondents as receiving attention were recognized as “very hot”; those identified as a focus by more than 50% (but less than 75%) of the respondents were labeled “hot.” The same percentages were used for the “cold” and “not hot” categories. Again, this process and these percentages were for identifying topics that “should be hot” “not hot.”
Jack Cassidy is an International Reading Association Past President and Executive Secretary of the Specialized Literacy Professionals Special Interest Group.
Stephanie Grote-Garcia is an assistant professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
Questions about the article should be addressed to email@example.com.
This article is an addendum to an article from the August/September 2013 issue
of Reading Today. IRA members can read the interactive digital version of the magazine here. Nonmembers: join today!