John Harmon and Victor Jaccarino, leaders of the New York State ELA/ESL Standards Review Panel, offered an overview of the revision process and addressed questions at the annual New York State English Council conference in Albany today. Those of us who were in attendance were also able to take a peek at the drafted document, learn more about the vision behind this work, and receive an update about the timing of the official release. We did not receive copies of any materials, and we were not permitted to capture the standards in writing. Here is what I took away….
Many of us have been aware of the shift toward distinct literacy and literary forms/artistic craft strands for some time. The intention is to distinguish literacy as the domain of all content areas and literary forms/artistic craft as the domain of the English Language Arts classroom specifically. Some reference was made to our currently “bloated” standards, and a conversation ensued around the call for performance indicators that were measurable and demonstrable. Apparently, a debate transpired during planning sessions around the inclusion of “creativity” within the document. Some on the panel argued against this, suggesting that creativity cannot be measured. At this time, it is included in the draft. There was some discussion about representation within the panel, and a quick reference to involvement from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills was also made. One of the goals of this group was to “future proof” this document, and while there are clear and very specific expectations throughout the entire document about the integration of digital technologies, connectivity, and authentic learning, specific tools are not named.
The new standards aim to support students in the development of reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and presenting skills, but these domains are only divided within the literacy strand. They are blended within the literature strand. The new standards will include lists of suggested books at each grade level.
Questions were asked about the roll-out process, including what it might look like in local regions and what sort of support SED intended to provide around this work. Budget cuts have compromised planning in this area, and the recession has also impacted the timely release of the standards, which will be submitted in draft form to the Board of Regents on November 16th. Ideally, the final draft will be released in February. No mention of the 3-8 assessments was made, but a brief discussion about revisions to the Regents examination took place, and it was suggested that there is anticipated movement toward a three hour examination 2011-2012.
My first impressions:
- The new document is definitely “debloated”
- Substantially fewer performance indicators seem to articulate increased complexity in skills and the creation of authentic products created with varied forms of media for real audiences
- I was excited to see writing defined and supported as a recursive PROCESS
- It seems that greater attention was paid to the vertical scaffolding of skills, although they are articulated with what appears to be far less specificity
- This document might provide individual districts tremendous latitude around when skills are mastered….and how that will happen
- It may provide an increased level of autonomy to teachers as well
- It is inclusive of ESL
- It emphasizes the need for an inclusive and very diverse cannon that moves far beyond “dead white guys” and the notion that the word “text” merely references hard print
A closing conversation unfolded around this important reality: SED is wrangling with three different sets of standards that must align and support one another, in order to influence the level of change envisioned by this panel. This isn’t merely about content standards. It’s about teacher standards as well, and it’s also about the establishment of standards for infrastructure. The panel hopes to provide a curriculum guidance document in order to provide much needed support around effective instruction, but at this time, the project has been put on hold due to cost.