Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Summer with Standards

“No more pencils, no more books…” When I was a kid, we sang that ditty every year at the end of school and we sang it before that in hopes to bring summer on sooner. Now that it’s mid-May, I expect students are expressing this same sentiment, which in many localities will be fulfilled in the next several weeks.

However, while schools and their students and teachers are winding down, forces in Washington, DC, and elsewhere are winding up for radical changes that will affect what we teach, how we teach, and how we assess our students. In particular, a movement is afoot to establish national standards for student achievement.

Just last week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan began his travels to at least 15 states to ask teachers, students and parents about what they’d like to see changed in the No Child Left Behind Act ("White House to Seek Input on Controversial Education Law," USA Today, May 6, 2009).

1. Look for his arrival in your state and try to attend the meeting.

2. However, if you can’t attend a meeting, please comment online on his listening tour blog. Right now, he’s inviting comments online about raising standards As time goes on he will be asking other questions.

At the same time last week, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices began looking for states to sign letters of intent to develop "fewer, but clearer and higher" standards for what students should know and be able to do. This brings to a head their efforts to restart the push to have national standards ("Standards To Receive Fresh Push," Education Week, April 21, 2009). They’re joined in their efforts by The Alliance For Excellent Education (AEE), The College Board , ACT Inc. ,and Achieve with its American Diploma Project standards. Lawmakers seem to agree with the standards movement ("In Standards Push, Lawmakers Cheer States’ Initiative," Education Week May 12, 2009).

What does this mean for us? Well, change if nothing else. But how can we make sure this change is for the better? How can we keep up with and participate in these standards conversations and decisions?

1. Review the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts .

2. Keep up with what’s going on—use InBox , read blogs, read your local and state newspapers, check out the SLATE Newsletter for state legislation .

3. Get involved with your state’s standards revision process. Find your state’s standards and your state’s education agency's website . See what’s afoot and respond online and/or offer your services on a committee.

4. Join with your local NCTE affiliate, your school or district, or your teachers' union for a group response to standards proposals.

5. Respond to this blog with your thoughts on developing national standards and your suggestions for more ways to get involved in the discussion.


Kent WIlliamson said...

Another useful document to use when evaluating standards is NCTE's Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment. Ironically, since I don't know how to hyperlink out of this text box, I'll try to just paste it in, below.

21st Century Curriculum and Assessment Framework

Adopted by the NCTE Executive Committee
November 19, 2008

Context for NCTE’s 21st Century Literacies Framework

In the 1990s, the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association established national standards for English language arts learners that anticipated the more sophisticated literacy skills and abilities required for full participation in a global, 21st century community. The selected standards, listed in the appendix, served as a clarion call for changes underway today in literacy education.

Today, the NCTE definition of 21st century literacies makes it clear that further evolution of curriculum, assessment, and teaching practice itself is necessary.

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
• Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

Elements of the Framework

Applied to students of English language arts, the literacy demands of the 21st century have implications for how teachers plan, support, and assess student learning. Teachers benefit from reflecting on questions associated with 21st century literacy demands.

Develop proficiency with the tools of technology

Students in the 21st century should have experience with and develop skills around technological tools used in the classroom and the world around them. Through this they will learn about technology and learn through technology. In addition, they must be able to select the most appropriate tools to address particular needs.

Do students use technology as a tool for communication, research, and creation of new works?
Do students evaluate and use digital tools and resources that match the work they are doing?
Do students find relevant and reliable sources that meet their needs?
Do students take risks and try new things with tools available to them?
Do students, independently and collaboratively, solve problems as they arise in their work?
Do students use a variety of tools correctly and efficiently?
Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally

Students in the 21st century need interpersonal skills in order to work collaboratively in both face-to-face and virtual environments to use and develop problem-solving skills. When learning experiences are grounded in well-informed teaching practices, the use of technology allows a wider range of voices to be heard, exposing students to opinions and norms outside of their own.

Do students work in a group in ways that allow them to create new knowledge or to solve problems that can’t be created or solved individually?
Do students work in groups to create new sources that can’t be created or solved by individuals?
Do students work in groups of members with diverse perspectives and areas of expertise?
Do students build on one another’s thinking to gain new understanding?
Do students learn to share disagreements and new ways of thinking in ways that positively impact the work?
Do students gain new understandings by being part of a group or team?

Design and share information for global communities that have a variety of purposes

Students in the 21st century must be aware of the global nature of our world and be able to select, organize, and design information to be shared, understood, and distributed beyond their classrooms.

Do students use inquiry to ask questions and solve problems?
Do students critically analyze a variety of information from a variety of sources?
Do students take responsibility for communicating their ideas in a variety of ways?
Do students choose tools to share information that match their need and audience?
Do students share and publish their work in a variety of ways?
Do students solve real problems and share results with real audiences?
Do students publish in ways that meet the needs of a particular, authentic audience?

Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneously presented information

Students in the 21st century must be able to take information from multiple places and in a variety of different formats, determine its reliability, and create new knowledge from that information.

Do students create new ideas using knowledge gained?
Do students locate information from a variety of source?
Do students analyze the credibility of information and its appropriateness in meeting their needs?
Do students synthesize information from a variety of sources?
Do students manage new information to help them solve problems?
Do students use information to make decisions as informed citizens?

Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts

Students in the 21st century must be critical consumers and creators of multi-media texts.

Do students use tools to create new thinking or to communicate original perspectives?
Do students communicate information and ideas in a variety of forms?
Do students communicate information and ideas to different audiences?
Do students articulate thoughts and ideas so that others can understand and act on them?
Do students analyze and evaluate the multimedia sources that they use?
Do students evaluate multimedia sources for the effects of visuals, sounds, hyperlinks, and other features on the text’s meaning or emotional impact?
Do students evaluate their own multimedia works?

Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by complex environments

Students in the 21st century must understand and adhere to legal and ethical practices as they use resources and create information.

Do students share information in ways that consider all source
Do students practice the safe and legal use of technology?
Do students create products that are both informative and ethical?

Implications of the Framework for Assessments

Assessments need to take into consideration both traditional components and elements that may be different for 21st century student work.

Traditional elements of assessment of 21st century student learning

The traditional elements for assessing 21st century student work include relevance and reliability of information used in the work; significance of new information or understandings communicated throughout the process and in the final product; effectiveness of the work in achieving its purpose; impact of the work on the audience; creativity or aesthetics demonstrated in the final product; creativity, initiative, and effectiveness demonstrated in solving problems; efficiency and effectiveness of the student’s process; and the student’s legal and ethical process and behavior.

Newer elements of assessment of 21st century student learning

Assessment of 21st century products of learning may be different because of technological tools. Some elements to consider include·

extent of students’ access to 21st century tools both in and out of school
range and depth of information readily accessible to studen
facility of students with technology tools
extent to which tools can make artists, musicians, and designers of students not traditionally considered talented in those fields
extent to which images and sound may amplify text
extent to which student products can emulate those of professionals
extent to which students receive feedback from experts in the field
potential interaction with and impact on a global audience
students’ selection of tools or media that most effectively communicate the intention of the product
students’ level of ethical and legal practice as they remix products
level of ethics and safety exhibited in students’ online behavior

Assessment practices of 21st century student learning may need flexibility and responsiveness to situations such as:

students’ greater proficiency with tools or formats than the teacher, which may generate outcomes not anticipated in an assessment rubric
technology glitches beyond students’ control that negatively impact the quality of the final products
scope of collaboration, in the classroom and globally, leading to a greater need for processes that assess progress and achievement of individuals and groups
support and celebration of the increasing diversity in students’ talents, imagination, perspectives, cultures, and lived experiences
recognition that the processes of learning and doing are as important as the quality of the final product
students’ self-evaluation and reflection on process and product integrated into the learning process and contributing to students’ continued growth
ability of students, parents, and teachers to examine growth over time in authentic ways


Selected NCTE/IRA Standards for English Language Arts Pertaining to 21st Century Literacies

1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

10. Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Document and Site Resources

James Davis said...

Thanks to Millie and Kent for raising awareness of this push. We should be concerned, in part because standards developed at these levels often bear little resemblance to the standards put forth by professional organizations in which we might have more confidence, and in part because the standards preoccupation perpetuates the tyranny of testing conducted by an enterprise whose warrants have never matched its claims. This is the ultimate complicity between policy makers and the corporate world, executed distant from the world of teachers and learners. Mandates from afar create minimilist ways to acquire dubious data! Jim Davis (Iowa)