We recently put out a general request for feedback on the new “draft” Indiana standards. Here are some general comments that we have heard from teachers on the ELA Standards. It is by NO means a comprehensive critique, but rather a compilation of some of the comments we have received to date. We expect that more will be coming soon!
Overview: The English Language Arts standards in their current form are uninspiring, monotonous, and lack a coherent vision for a rich, literature-filled curriculum. They reduce the magical experience of reading to a seemingly endless series of Pavlovian “ask and answer” exercises that ultimately may keep children from falling in love with the characters and stories of great literature. Much like the Common Core, they focus more on what students should do than what they should know.
- There are too many standards throughout, and this is especially pronounced in Grade 1.
- They lack the definitions and examples teachers need to implement effectively.
- Good reading should be the focus of any language arts curriculum yet there are no exemplar texts listed at any grade level. In fact, there is almost no mention of classic literature or the enduring values such literature may impart.
- Some skill sets are improperly grouped under the “language” category.
- Graphically, it is extremely difficult to follow the sequence of skills from grade level to grade level because standard ID #s do not correspond. This lack of clear sequencing makes thorough analysis of the standards challenging, and it would certainly make it difficult for teachers in a school building to cross-check with their own scope and sequence documents.
- At all levels, jargon-filled reading comprehension goals should be replaced by quantifiable oral and silent reading goals.
- Many standards are repeated almost word for word at different grade levels. In a properly sequenced standards document one could assume “incorporation” of previously listed standards.
- There is an unjustifiable overemphasis on informational text. At a majority of grade levels, information standards are more numerous than literature standards.
- Lack of uniformity. There is no apparent reason to combine 9-10 and 11-12 standards.
Below is commentary we have received on the ELA Standards that is standard specific:
Kindergarten and Grade 1
Too many standards that are unclear or inappropriate for grade level. Examples and definitions are desperately needed for clarity. Phonemic and phonological awareness and phonic skills should be stated explicitly.
Examples should be added to all phonemic and phonics skills
K READING 9 – “Orally blend the onset and the rime.”
Should be “Orally blend the onset (initial sound) and the rime (vowel and ending sound. /h/ + /at/ + hat
Vague standards should be eliminated or clarified.
K LANGUAGE 11 – “Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.” WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
K READING: LITERATURE 6 – “Recognize common types of literary texts.” TO WHAT DOES THIS REFER?
Unnecessary micromanagement of the classroom should be eliminated
K SPEAKING AND LISTENING 1 – “Participate in collaborative conversations with various partners about appropriately complex topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.” THIS IS GOBBLEDYGOOK.
Developmentally unrealistic standards should be dropped.
K READING: LITERATURE 1 – “With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.” CAN’T WE JUST LET KINDERGARTNERS ENJOY STORIES SO THEY WILL LEARN TO LOVE READING? THEY WILL ASK QUESTIONS WITHOUT PROMPTING.
1LANGUAGE – Write complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts. THIS IS NOT APPROPRIATE AT GRADE 1. A GOOD GOAL WOULD BE WRITING SIMPLE SENTENCES.
1READING 2 - “Read a variety of appropriately complex texts with sufficient fluency to support comprehension.” THIS VAGUE LANGUGE IS REPEATED AT VARIOUS GRADE LEVELS. SEE SANDRA STOTSKY “MODEL LANGUAGE ARTS CURRICULUM” FOR BETTER WORDING. “ORALLY READ GRADE-APPROPRIATE TEXT SMOOTHLY AND ACCURATELY WITH EXPRESSION THAT CONNOTES COMPREHENSION AT THE INDEPENDENT LEVEL E.G. 95 PERCENT COMPREHENSION, BENCHMARK FLUENCY).
1 WRITING 6 – Write opinion and persuasive pieces that introduce a topic, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure. THIS IS PATENTLY INAPPRORIATE AT THIS GRADE LEVEL. IN FACT MOST OF THE WRITING GOALS FOR GRADE 1 ARE INAPPROPRIATE.
Grades 2 and 3
2 SPEAKING & LISTENING 15 – “Give and follow three and four-step oral directions.” DEVELOPMENTALLY UNREALISTIC.
2 WRITING 5 – “Write narratives to recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.” THIS USES BUZZWORDS INSTEAD OF PLAIN LANGUAGE TO DESCRIBE TASK. HOW ABOUT: WRITE A SUSPENSEFUL STORY WITH A BEGNNING, MIDDLE, AND END.
7 SPEAKING AND LISTENING 2 – “Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study….” STANDARDS SEEM TO BE GETTING INTO HOMEWORK COMPLETION????
8READING LITERATURE 9 – Analyze how a text draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works, including describing how the work is rendered new. HOW CAN THEY DO THIS IF THEY HAVE NOT READ MYTHS, TRADITIONAL STORIES, AND RELIGIOUS TEXTS? EXEMPLAR TEXTS SHOULD BE RECOMMENDED.
9-10 READING LITERATURE – Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g. how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare.)” THIS STANDARD DEVIATES FROM THE OTHERS AND ACTUALLY GIVES A VERY USEFUL EXAMPLE, BUT AGAIN NOWHERE IS THERE A STANDARD THAT RECOMMENDS STUDENTS READS OVID OR THE BIBLE).